Editorial: Senate Bill 1 only hurts voter turnouts instead of encouraging more people to vote

Gov. Greg Abbott recently signed Senate Bill 1 into law, which tightens state election laws and creates larger barriers for Texas voters regarding voting hours, methods and accessibilities.

Texas is one of the states that have enacted new voting restrictions following the 2020 presidential election. The law bans drive-thru and 24-hour voting and tightens mail-in voting by requiring IDs. It also prohibits counties from mailing unrequested applications such as instructions to people if they’re eligible to vote and enhances partisan poll watcher protections. 

The Shorthorn Editorial Board believes that while Republican lawmakers who support the bill claim it was necessary to ensure the integrity of elections and prevent voter fraud, the restrictions in practice will limit voting accessibility for everyone for the upcoming elections. 

Over the past 20 years, Americans have cast over 250 million votes by mail ballot. The Heritage Foundation election fraud database reported only more than 1,300 cases of voter frauds, which resulted in over 1,100 criminal convictions. There are only 223 cases regarding fraudulent use of absentee ballots since 1988, according to the database.

States like Colorado, Hawaii, Utah, Washington and Oregon conduct elections by mail in ballots. In Oregon’s case, there have only been two fraud cases out of 50 million mail-in votes over the past 20 years, a total of 0.000004%.

The last time a Texan committed fraud using  absentee ballots was in 2019, according to the database. 

During the 2020 election, former President Donald Trump brought up the idea that voter fraud cost him the bid for his second term. However, while there are cases of fraudulent votes in states, there’s no proof that the number was enough to influence the result of the race. 

The 2020 election was the first to be held during COVID-19. Nationally, 46% of the votes were cast by mail in the 2020 election compared to only 21% in 2016, according to data by FiveThirtyEight, ultimately giving President Joe Biden many swing states like Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Biden managed to flip Georgia, and the state also elected two Democratic senators, giving the party a government trifecta.

It is understandable if Republicans feel like the election was unfair, considering they were ahead on election night. But people predicted that many states would not complete counting that night. More Democratic candidates emerged victorious over the next few days as states counted more mail-in ballots. 

Many fail to realize mail-in voting has impacted elections since 1992, as more voters choose to send their ballots through the mail rather than voting early in person.

Since Election Day falls on a Tuesday, many people have to work through the day and do not have the opportunity to vote until their shift is over. With SB 1 reducing voting hours, this will hurt low-income communities and working class and student voters.

In the 2020 election, 60% of Texas voters fall between 45 and more than 65 years old. Fifty-seven percent of voters ages 45 to 64 voted for Trump, and the former president also took 59% of voters older than 65, according to data by The Associated Press’ VoteCast. 

Sixty-two percent of Texas voters between the age of 18 and 29 voted for Biden. 

SB 1 also requires those who assist voters with disabilities to disclose their relationship to the voter and recite an expanded oath swearing that they did not “pressure or coerce” them into choosing them for assistance.

Instead of encouraging more voter turnouts by providing flexibility, the state will prevent more voters from accessing the polls. The voting process will only be conducted from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., which, more than anything, mostly benefits retirees and people with office jobs. 

The Shorthorn Editorial Board encourages voters to let themselves be heard by registering and casting their votes early. Their voting rights are being threatened because of policies that don’t seem relevant to the real situation, which is not enough people are going to the polls to vote. 

Voters should also contact their senators and state representatives to demand the repeal of SB 1. It’s already difficult enough for people to vote both nationwide and in Texas, and the state should encourage more people to show up instead of shutting them down for personal political advances. 

The Shorthorn Editorial Board is made up of opinion editor Dang Le; Editor-in-Chief Angelica Perez; associate news editor Cole Kembel; Katecey Harrell, life and entertainment editor; design editor Vivian Santillan; news reporter Taylor Coit; and copy editor Jill Bold.

opinion-editor.shorthorn@uta.edu

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