With Election Day right around the corner, the process of voting has once again become a point of contention.
Some say Texas voting laws are too strict, closing off much of the electorate from participating. Others believe the state’s laws are too loose, opening elections up for fraud.
So how do voting laws in Texas compare to other places?
Political scientist and professor at Rice University Mark Jones recently wrote a piece for the Dallas Morning News looking into this question and he joined the Texas Standard to talk about it. Listen to the story above or read the transcript below.
This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:
Texas Standard: You write “Texas makes voting harder.” In what respect does Texas make voting harder?
Mark Jones: Well, there are several. First off is that we’re one of only eight states nationally (and the only large state) that still doesn’t allow online voter registration. So it’s tougher to register to vote in Texas than it is in most other states. We also have a voter registration deadline at 30 days. That’s the maximum allowed by the federal government, whereas many states have same-day voter registration or 15 days, 25 days before Election Day.
Well, you’re talking about registration there. Once you’re registered, what about the voting process itself?
Well, once the voting process starts, in some ways we make it easier, in some ways harder. The places where we make it harder in Texas is with mail voting. Of the largest, most populous states, we’re the only one other than New York that doesn’t have no-excuse absentee voting for everyone. That’s where everybody can vote by mail – they don’t need an excuse. They don’t need to be out of the county. In Texas, we only have no-excuse absentee voting for those 65 and older. We also, when you show up at the polls, we’re one of the few large states that requires a photo ID. If you don’t have a photo ID, you have to sign an affidavit or provide additional information in order to be able to vote. Where we do make it a little easier to vote than in other states, or at least a significant proportion, is that we do have more robust early voting than several other states. So in terms of early voting, we started voting last Monday and have until this Friday, which puts us as longer than states like New York and certainly longer in terms of states like Ohio and Pennsylvania and Michigan, which have early voting, but it’s called absentee voting and it’s only a specific place. So early voting in Texas is for a longer period and more convenient than in about half of the other large states, which in that sense, Texas makes it easier to vote. But in every other aspect, we make it harder.
I’ve noticed a talking point that some conservatives are making in defense of their policies on voting restrictions, and they’re saying, “Well, if we’re really that restrictive, what about what has been, at least in recent election cycles, near record levels of participation?”
Well, we make it more restrictive in other states, but that doesn’t mean that it actually is all that difficult to vote. And I think that’s an important distinction. If you go to other countries throughout Western Europe or through Latin America, in most of those countries, you can vote on one day – Election Day. You need to have a photo ID and you have to vote in a specific polling place. So if you compare Texas to those other countries, it’s much easier to vote in Texas than it is in any of those countries. Where it’s more difficult, though, is compared to, say, states like California or Illinois or North Carolina, which have gone out of their way to make it extremely easy to vote – and in doing so, when you make it easy to vote, you do open up your system to greater potential fraud. And so states like California, when they mail everyone a mail ballot, you are increasing the probability that some electoral fraud occurs. Now, we don’t have strong evidence of any orchestrated fraud, but when you look at the California system, mailing everybody a ballot and then having them return it with very few controls, it is susceptible to fraud.