Legislation to criminalize errors on voter registration forms has become the most polarizing political process measure advancing through the Republican-run Texas Legislature this year. Now the down-the-line partisan divide has been broken.
Republican Trey Grayson, Kentucky's former secretary of state and top elections official, is urging the Texas House to abandon or seriously modify the bill, which the state Senate passed last month amid cries from Democrats that the goal was disenfranchisement of the poor and elderly. He says it will scare thousands of honest citizens away from the political process out of fear an error on newly complicated paperwork could result in a felony conviction and prison time.
"Texas policymakers ought to be focused on modernizing and securing our elections so that everyone who's eligible to vote can vote and only eligible votes count," Grayson told the San Antonio Current after a round of lobbying in Austin, and the bill "unfortunately, doesn't advance those things."
Whatever changes Texas makes to its democratic systems have national implications, not only because it's now the second-most populous state but also because its changing demographics are recoloring the electoral map from deep Republican "red" into electoral bellwether purple.
Grayson chairs the Secure Elections Project, an advocacy group tied to the bipartisan Center for Secure and Modern Elections, which also is skeptical of the bill. He has also run the Harvard Institute of Politics and was Mitch McConnell's choice for the Senate seat won by Rand Paul in 2010.
His party's fixation with making it harder to vote, he said, is a strategically bad idea because "We're sending a message to voters that we can't win on our own."