North Texas Daily

Students, faculty and politicians react to statewide voting changes

Students, faculty and politicians react to statewide voting changes

Students, faculty and politicians react to statewide voting changes
September 17
12:00 2021

When Gov. Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 1 on Sept, 7, he promoted the legislation as tightening election integrity.

For political science associate professor Gloria Cox, Abbott’s words clashed with reality. 

“If there were problems with electoral integrity, I would be the first to want the problems corrected, as I believe elections are a key element of democracy, but I have read extensively and there is just no evidence of anything beyond the occasional glitch,” Cox said. 

Changes in the bill include bans on 24-hour and drive-thru voting, a corrective process for mail voters at risk of any technical errors, a strengthening of partisan poll watchers and more. 

SB1 has already been the target of lawsuits from local election officials and civil rights groups in Harris County, which used both drive-thru and 24-hour voting, according to the Texas Tribune. The suits allege discrimination against Texans of color, disabled voters and other minority groups.

“Let’s step back a bit and acknowledge that the United States has made it hard for new groups of people to be added to the electorate over the course of our history,” Cox said. “For example, think of the battle that women waged to vote. As another example, all kinds of laws were adopted to keep Black Americans from voting. We have a long history of denying and discouraging the right to vote.”

Outside the university, Denton City Council member Deb Armintor believes the bill would disproportionately impact disabled voters.

“For a lot of voters, drive-thru voting was very helpful,” Armintor said. “They didn’t need help or to get out of the car. It also was great for people who were immunocompromised, especially with this new [COVID-19 delta] variant. It’s a real slap to the face for those voters and I personally think it’s a violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act.”

Armintor also took issue with how the bill may limit voting accessibility in Denton County.

“It prohibits Denton County from expanding voting in some of the ways other counties have done,” Armintor said. “Like 24-hour and drive-thru voting, which we haven’t done, and it also prohibits the county from sending ballot applications to registered voters, which we [also] haven’t done. Now we couldn’t even if we had a radical overhaul in the make of the county commissioners.”

There is also concern regarding how these new election measures will affect Black and Hispanic voters.

“The majority of the Black and Hispanic voters in Texas-30 are working class,” said Jessica Mason, a congressional candidate for Texas-30, which covers parts of Dallas and the surrounding county. “They work odd jobs, jobs with crazy hours, so banning 24-hour voting will disproportionately affect them.”

Another group potentially affected by the law includes student voters, according to the university chapter of the College Democrats. 

“It’s already difficult for much of the study body to vote,” CD social media chair Collin Renfro said. “It’s not guaranteed that there will be a voting location on campus and further restricting voter access will only make things more challenging for voters.”

The university’s chapter of the Young Americans Foundation and Denton County Young Republicans did not respond to requests for comment.

Another concern for Cox is pre-existing lack of knowledge regarding how voting and government work, not only among the student body but in the general population.

“I think one of the greatest threats to our democracy is the lack of citizen involvement and knowledge,” Cox said. “Citizenship places demands on us and it seems to me, the least we can do is know the restrictions that have been placed on our right to vote. I urge everyone to read the law, or better still a good summary of it.”

Featured Image: The Denton Country Elections Technology Services building faces the setting sun on Sept. 12, 2021. Photo by Meredith Holser

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Will Tarpley

Will Tarpley

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