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Texas GOP’s proposed election reforms would restrict mail-in voting for seniors, early voting

Julia Reihs

Leaders of Texas’ Republican Party continue to promote false claims that the 2020 presidential election was “stolen” from former President Donald Trump – and during the Texas GOP convention in Houston last month, members overwhelmingly voted to make election reforms the party’s No. 1 priority.

As the Houston Chronicle reports, this means they want the state to adopt laws in the 2023 legislative session that would further restrict voting by shortening the early voting period from two weeks to one and by no longer letting any senior vote by mail.

“They’re going off of this assumption that there’s more fraud in early voting and in mail voting,” said Jeremy Wallace, a political reporter at the Chronicle’s Austin bureau. “That is based on some of the unproven claims from former President Donald Trump about how elections went in other states like Pennsylvania and Georgia, and the Texas Republican Party has kind of grabbed that baton and are pushing it in Texas, even though there’s been no evidence that the expanded early voting time that we have here in Texas has resulted in additional fraud.”

Under legislation that would limit seniors from voting by mail, instead of letting anyone over the age of 65 have the option, as they have for decades, seniors would instead only be able to do so with an excuse.

Out of the million voters who utilized mail-in voting for the 2020 presidential election, 850,000 were 65 and up, Wallace said. But Republicans’ new proposal would limit absentee voting to those who are in the military, have a disability or are out of the country.

“The argument they made during the convention was that, ‘look, people 65 and up can go to the grocery store and they can go to the post office, and they sure as heck can get to the voting site to go vote as well,’ in their estimation,” Wallace said. “But this is a long-standing tradition in Texas. Texas is one of the pioneers on allowing people 65 and up to be able to vote absentee. Like back in the 1970s, we made the first moves to do this, where most states still don’t even allow that without some sort of an excuse.”

While some items that get put into the official Republican platform – like privatizing Social Security – are more like wish list ideas without much weight behind them, this push for voting changes is different as a top legislative priority, Wallace said.

“And they’ve put teeth into their rules to say, if Republican elected officials don’t abide by their legislative priority list, they can censure them and even spend money against them in future Republican primaries,” he said. “So they’re putting a lot more pressure on the legislators to follow this stuff versus some of the stuff you’ve heard in their platform in the past.”

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