HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) — A new election bill passed the state Senate early Thursday that some community organizers say could make it more difficult for people to vote.
The 2020 election saw a record turnout at the polls thanks in part to groups like LUPE that assisted voters in getting to election sites.
“We think that our democracy is stronger when more people participate and more people vote,” said Danny Diaz, director of organizing for LUPE.
LUPE assists people with transportation to and from voting centers, as well as explaining to people what they are supposed to do when filling out the ballots.
Diaz is concerned that Senate Bill 7 would make the work LUPE does during elections more difficult.
It would require people who drive voters to voting locations to submit a form with their name and address.
“If this passes, and we go into the next election next year, are we able to assist hundreds of thousands of voters that come to LUPE who need help who just became citizens for the first time,” he said.
On top of putting more restrictions on people driving voters to the polls, Senate Bill 7 expands where poll watchers are allowed to go, and what they’re allowed to do.
“Poll watchers don’t get a lot of training like election judges or election clerks,” said Diaz. “And for them to have much more authority and say so in a voting location was a huge concern for election judges, and we’re with them.”
According to the Texas government website, the only requirements to be a poll watcher in Texas is that they must be appointed, must be a registered voter in the county they are poll watching in, and they cannot be running for office, or cannot be employed or related to the election officer.
Under Senate Bill 7, watchers will be able to record people voting if the watcher believes that the person voting is receiving unlawful assistance, but the bill doesn’t specify what that is.
Diaz said that LUPE was concerned that “partisan efforts will intentionally send folks as poll watchers into these locations to disrupt other voters in there.”
He told KVEO that politicians should be encouraging people to vote, not making it more difficult for them to do so.
“Texas ranks near dead last in voter turnout in the United States,” he said. “That’s not something to be proud of, and efforts like these will make things worse. We think that our democracy is stronger when more people participate and more people vote.”