Is Texas law making it more difficult or anxiety-provoking for people with disabilities to vote?
Nearly 62% of Americans with disabilities voted in 2020, largely due to pandemic-driven reforms to improve safety and accessibility, but disability advocates worry these turnout gains will be lost in 2022.
A chief cause for concern is that the state’s rules about when and how Texans with disabilities can be assisted at the polls are still unclear.
Passed by the GOP-controlled state legislature and signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott in 2021, Senate Bill 1 limits any kind of voter assistance to “reading the ballot to the voter, directing the voter to read the ballot, marking the voter’s ballot, or directing the voter to mark the ballot.”
Uncertainty over the new rules is creating anxiety for anyone whose job it is to assist people with disabilities or help others cast their ballots.
If found to be in violation of the law, Texans with disabilities and those who get paid to help them could face criminal penalties.
Texas law now also prohibits drive-through voting, limits early voting times, makes it illegal for an elections administrator to send mail-in ballot applications to anyone who hasn't requested one, limits who can request mail-in ballots and what qualifies as a disability, and requires the identification number on a mail-in ballot form to exactly match the one from the voter’s original registration card.
If a hopeful voter used their Social Security number to register years ago but put their driver’s license number on their mail-in ballot, that would be grounds for rejection.
Texas Republicans said the law would make it “easy to vote, hard to cheat,” but thousands of legitimate mail-in ballots for Texas primary elections have already been rejected for failing to comply.
Will Texas’ new voting restrictions make it more difficult or less likely for people with disabilities to cast ballots in 2022?
- Jeff Miller, voting rights policy specialist at Disability Rights Texas
- Dennis Borel, executive director of the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities
"The Source" is a live call-in program airing Mondays through Thursdays from 12-1 p.m. Leave a message before the program at (210) 615-8982. During the live show, call 833-877-8255, email email@example.com or tweet @TPRSource.
*This interview was recorded on Tuesday, February 22.