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Texas Senate passes bill to end countywide voting on Election Day

Opponents say the bill would make it more difficult for people in sprawling counties to find a place to vote.
Voters wait in line on Nov. 3, 2020 in Austin, Texas.
Voters wait in line on Nov. 3, 2020, in Austin, Texas. Under a bill passed by the Texas Senate, countywide voting on Election Day would be prohibited.Montinique Monroe / Getty Images file

The Texas Senate on Thursday approved a bill to ban countywide voting on Election Day, part of a pattern of legislation aimed at tightening election laws in red-leaning states.

Senate Bill 990, which passed on a party-line vote, would require people to vote at their assigned precinct on Election Day rather than at countywide voting centers. The county polling sites would remain open throughout the early voting period. The bill now moves to the House, where an identical bill was referred to the Elections Committee.

State Sen. Bob Hall, a Republican who introduced the legislation, said the bill would boost election security and prevent people from voting at multiple locations. Opponents argued, however, that the secretary of state had debunked all claims of voter fraud. They said the bill would make it more difficult for people in sprawling counties to find a place to vote.

"There’s no basis, there’s no proof, there’s no evidence that someone has voted in more than one location. You’re going on some theoretical approach here," state Sen. Carol Alvarado, a Democrat, said, calling Hall's position a "very weak case."

About 90 counties currently have permission from the secretary of state's office to use countywide polling places on Election Day. State Sen. Sarah Eckhardt, a Democrat, said on the Senate floor that the majority of voters use the countywide polling centers, as they allow people who commute to their jobs or who have lengthy workdays to vote anywhere in the county. The locations are also more accessible for people with disabilities, Eckhardt said.

Hall responded that the bill was about security, not convenience. He also argued that requiring people to vote in one location in their neighborhood would increase accessibility, saying elections "can’t get much more convenient than voting in your own neighborhood."

He suggested that people had used countywide voting sites to cast multiple ballots. When Democrats pressed him to name counties where election fraud occurred, Hall said that the current system of election management made it "virtually impossible" to audit votes.

There has been no evidence of widespread voter fraud in Texas or around the nation. But claims of election mismanagement and fraud have become increasingly common among conservative lawmakers in the wake of then-President Donald Trump's 2020 election loss.

In a tense exchange, state Sen. Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat, pressed Hall to provide the names of counties where people had cast multiple ballots.

"The fact is that there were no issues with countywide polling sites open on Election Day," Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez, Hall and the Texas secretary of state's office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.