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Texas Matters: Voting is still hard, Abbott's Bail Crackdown, Vouchers mean dollars

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How difficult or inconvenient should it be to cast a vote in a well-functioning democracy? One answer is it should be as easy and convenient as possible—if you want a high level of participation. If the goal is to reduce participation so only a select portion of the population (a highly motivated and capable portion) is likely to vote, then another answer is to create as many artificial barriers as possible to vote.

This would include make voting, not only difficult, but also scary which could be behind why Republican leaders in the Texas Senate are intent on increasing the penalty for illegal voting from a misdemeanor to a second-degree felony.

A new report shows that once again Texas is one of the most difficult states to vote in. The reasons stem from the chronic underfunding of the state’s election system and voter education programs. And the battery of voter suppression laws passed in recent years.

Katya Ehresman is the voting rights manager for Common Cause Texas.

Vouchers Mean Dollars

An old fight over school vouchers is heating up this legislative session. Both Governor Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have made private school choice a top priority.

But lost in the ideological spin over whether or not taxpayer dollars should be allowed to be spent on private schools is something that should be at the heart of the matter: the financial impact. TPR's education reporter, Camille Phillips, untangled the facts from the spin.

Beauty School Dreams

For a lot of Texans, caring for our hair, nails and skin is essential to who we are -- and we're loyal to the stylists who perfect our look.

But how often do we think about that person behind the chair, and the practice and knowledge that makes them the professional they are?

As KERA's Toluwani Osibamowo reports, the newest generation of cosmetology students in North Texas will enter an industry that's going through changes.

Abbott Bail Crackdown

Governor Greg Abbott has named cracking down on cash bail an emergency item in the state’s legislature this year.

Here’s Abbott at his recent state of the state address.

"One of the most dangerous places is one you would least expect. It's a courtroom with an activist judge, using low bail to let dangerous criminals back on the streets. Last September, a law enforcement officer in Harris County was murdered by a criminal out on bail, from a prior murder charge.

"Harris County's revoking bail practice is literally killing people. In just two years, more than 100 people were murdered in Houston by criminals who were let out on multiple felony bond.

"This session we must shut and lock that revolving door by passing laws that keep dangerous criminals behind bars and holding accountable the judges who let them out," continued Abbott.

Gov. Abbott is supporting SJR 44, a bipartisan joint resolution that, if passed by the legislature and Texas voters, would change the Texas Constitution to allow judges to deny bail for some violent offenders.

If two-thirds of both the House and Senate pass SJR 44, the measure would be put on the November 2023 ballot for Texas voters to approve or reject.

Responding to Abbott, the Bail Project argues that changing the state constitution to strip Texans of a right shouldn’t be rushed through the legislature.

Nicole Zayas Manzano is the Senior Policy Counsel at the Bail Project.

Never ending Border Mission

When National Guard troops deploy within the United States, it’s typically for short periods of time, like a hurricane or other disaster. But the National Guard has patrolled the southern border for most of the last two decades. Some government watchdogs say that’s an inappropriate use of the Guard. From Mission, Texas, TPR's Carson Frame reports for the American Homefront Project.

This story was produced by the American Homefront Project, a public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans.

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi