Texas Republicans’ bills to restrict voting aren’t popular and would harm GOP voters, study finds

click to enlarge A voter leaves the Bexar County Elections Department during the 2020 election season. - SANFORD NOWLIN

  • Sanford Nowlin
  • A voter leaves the Bexar County Elections Department during the 2020 election season.

Texas voters of both parties oppose measures put forth by Republican state lawmakers this session that would make voting more difficult, according to a new poll by nonpartisan voting-rights group Secure Democracy.

What’s more, Secure Democracy’s analysis of 2020 state voting data found that restricting access to absentee and early voting would actually harm Texas Republican voters, especially older ones.

This legislative session, Republicans including Gov. Greg Abbott are backing bills in the Legislature to tighten Texas’ already restrictive voting rules. Among other things, those measures would ban drive-through voting, override the ability of local elections officials to expand voting times and set felony penalties for people who make errors when filling out ballots.

But Secure Democracy’s poll — conducted by leading Republican pollster Chris Perkins of Ragnar Research Partners — found broad bipartisan support for policies that increase poll accessibility. Voters of both parties also oppose rules that would impose felony charges for mistakes in filling out ballots.

“A number of the provisions in these bills are addressing things that aren’t considered problems by most Texas voters,” said Sarah Walker, Secure Democracy’s executive director. “Our survey shows that Texans are overwhelmingly happy with the way elections are taking place.”

For example, the poll shows that:

  • 73% of voters — including 58% of Republican voters — support extending early voting by one week.
  • 84% of voters — including 80% of Republican voters — support increasing the number of polling stations.
  • 61% of voters — including 51% of Republican voters — oppose threatening felony prosecution for an accidental vote.

Further, Secure Democracy’s analysis of Texas Secretary of State data from the 2020 general election and a national partisanship model found that bills now in front of the Lege to limit early and absentee voting would disfranchise GOP voters.

Among those findings:

  • 64% of Texas Republicans cast their ballots early.
  • 23% of Texas Republicans voted absentee.
  • Republicans cast half of all absentee ballots in Texas’ 2020 general election.
  • Among all Republican voters 55 or older in Texas, 91% voted early or by mail.

The Texas GOP’s push for new voting restrictions comes as Republicans in numerous state legislatures try to pass similar measures to stave off demographic changes that threaten their ability to retain power.

Despite widely debunked claims by former President Donald Trump that widespread fraud cost him reelection, Republican candidates in Texas generally fared well in the 2020 contest, Secure Democracy’s Walker added.

“People on both sides say they were concerned about the integrity of the 2020 election,” Walker said. “The way to build that trust back isn’t by limiting voters’ access to the polls but by increasing transparency and ensuring voters have more access, not less.”

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