(NEXSTAR) — How difficult is it to vote in Texas?
As this year’s midterm election approaches quickly, new data has been released showing Texas ranks slightly lower among the 50 U.S. states in terms of how easy it is to vote than it did just one year ago — landing at no. 46.
The 2022 Cost of Voting in the American States index, published in the Election Law Journal, used several factors to find the cost of voting, including registration deadline timeframes, voter registration restrictions, voting inconvenience, poll hours and voter ID laws. Each state received an index score, where a negative score actually indicates voting access. Texas’ score was 1.29, while the top state, Oregon, received a -2.54.
The Lone Star State ranked 45th last year, so while that’s not a huge difference, the index authors outline why it dropped a spot in just a year. Authors Scot Schraufnagel, Michael J. Pomante, and Quan Li say Texas Senate Bill 1, signed into law in September 2021, followed up measures taken during the 2020 election.
The controversial — and challenged — SB 1:
- Banned 24-hour polling locations
- Increased ID requirements
- Imposed restrictions on drive-thru voting
- Imposed limits on vote-by-mail, including making it a state jail felony to send voters requests for mail-in ballots
- Allows partisan poll watchers to observe at polling sites
Detractors of SB 1, particularly Democrats, say the law is “voter suppression” — especially among communities of color. State Republicans, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, say SB 1 makes it “harder to cheat.”
“One thing that all Texans can agree [on] and that is that we must have trust and confidence in our elections. The bill that I’m about to sign helps to achieve that goal,” Abbott said in September 2021. “The law does, however, make it harder for fraudulent votes to be cast.”
Abbott has previously said he’s not aware of any fraud that happened in Texas during the 2020 election, though he added that “voter fraud does occur.”
Many of these changes, the index authors explain, were only 2020 changes, however.
“… However, as best as we can tell, there was no intention to make the 2020 provisions permanent, so banning them is curious,” the authors write.
Authors of the COVI say SB 1’s restrictions also place the state in a precarious position should another health emergency like the first COVID-19 outbreak happen again.
The four states with worse index scores than Texas are Wisconsin and Arkansas (1.37 index scores), Mississippi (1.57) and New Hampshire (1.69).
For more information on voting in Texas, visit VoteTexas. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8.