Just hours before a midnight deadline to approve the controversial Texas voting rights bill, Democrats temporarily blocked its passage by walking out of the state legislature. Senate Bill 7 (or SB 7 for short) proposed an overhaul of the state’s voting process, which critics argue would disproportionately affect Black and Latino voters.
The voting rights bill would ban drive-through voting and 24-hour voting, limit early voting hours, make it more difficult to receive and cast mail-in ballots, and reduce the types of locations that can serve as polling places.
These proposals aggravate a wound that is already festering: Texas is not new to such legislation. According to researchers at Northern Illinois University, the state already has the most restrictive electoral climate in the US.
Each state sets their own voting laws, and as such, those laws vary significantly. Initiatives like mail-in ballots, and early voting, make it easier for people to participate. Other measures, such as strict identification requirements and limits to online voter registration, provide impediments. In a US-wide comparison of such measures, Texas comes out dead last.
The researchers considered ID laws, poll hours, registration deadlines and restrictions, pre-registration laws, automatic registration, voter inconvenience, and early voting options in their study. They combined their findings into a single index value as a way to compare ease of voting in each state.
The researchers found that Oregon, “which has one of the most progressive automatic voter registration processes and mail-in voting,” is the easiest state in which to cast a ballot. Oregon also came out on top in 2016, the last time the academics collected this data, while Texas dropped from 46th to last.