Texas House Bill To Cut Early Voting Days Introduced, Opposed And Likely To Be Shelved

Early voting can draw as much as half the turnout in some elections in the Houston area. The state House Election Committee considered a bill that would shorten early voting from 12 to 7. After receiving strong opposition from committee Democrats, the bill did not make it to a committee vote.

The language of House Bill 2093 does not spell out why lawmakers want to cut the time voters have to cast their ballots before an election. Brandon Rottinghaus, associate professor of Political Science at the University of Houston says it could be a reaction to demographic changes.

"You've got more young voters.  You've got more voters who are more likely to vote Democratic."

But Rottinghaus says Republicans tend to benefit more from early voting, at least in Harris County.  He says he's puzzled why Texas would want to follow the example of Florida, where there's now an effort to restore longer early voting periods after a backlash from voters.

"Similar kinds of measures have received significant backlash from courts, and the Department of Justice, who've said that there is no reason to curtail this.  It just simply has no additive value in terms of protecting the right to vote, or securing the secrecy of the right to vote. So I think that this is an ill-thought-out measure that doesn't have any real upside."

But it would save money. Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart says cutting early voting from 12 days to 7 would still give people plenty of time to cast their ballots, and save his department hundreds of thousands of dollars during most years.

"Most all of our elections, other than presidential, we're not that busy.  But the taxpayer is paying for every location and all the staff and personnel it takes to run all these locations."

Stanart says he would open more early voting locations in presidential election years to help make up for the loss of early voting days.

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