The Republican-majority state Senate voted Monday for a package of election law changes that opponents deride as a thinly-veiled effort to suppress turnout in Texas as it moves toward becoming the nation's biggest politically competitive state.
The bill would turn some election-related misdemeanors into felonies and end the requirement that such offenses be committed with fraudulent intent. It would also expand police powers to conduct sting investigations in political cases, make it tougher for seniors and the disabled to get help at polling places, and tighten the regulation of election volunteers. (To the delight of those advocating for more transparent elections, however, the measure would mandate all electronic voting machines produce a paper record.)
"There are no changes in this bill that are intended or would create a pitfall or a trap for the unwary or a 'gotcha' in elections," GOP state Sen. Bryan Hughes said. "Changes in this bill are to catch and punish cheaters."
"This legislation magnifies the voter suppression tactics that [Texas politicians] have been pursuing for the last couple of years," Zenén Jaimes Pérez, advocacy director for the Texas Civil Rights Project, countered to the San Antonio Current.
GOP Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick says the measure is one of his top priorities for a session that ends in six weeks. It now goes to the state House, where the Republican majority is a bit narrower than in the Senate.
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RepresentUs acquired 8,000 signatures on a petition asking Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez to keep working on a "revolving door" bill. Paula Barkan, Austin chapter leader of RepresentUs, handed the petition to Brandon Simon, Cruz's Central Texas regional director, on July 31.
Remember that tweet exchange in May between Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the one where they discussed bipartisan legislation to ban former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists?
To recap: Ocasio-Cortez tweeted her support for legislation banning the practice in light of a report by the watchdog group Public Citizen, which found that nearly 60 percent of lawmakers who recently left Congress had found jobs with lobbying firms. Cruz tweeted back, extending an invitation to work on such a bill. Ocasio-Cortez responded, "Let's make a deal."
The news cycle being what it is, it's easy to forget how the media jumped on the idea of the Texas Republican and the New York Democrat finding common ground on a government ethics proposal. Since then, we've collectively moved on — but not everyone forgot.
The government reform group RepresentUs recently drafted a petition asking Cruz and Ocasio-Cortez to follow through on their idea, gathering more than 8,000 signatures.
Sixty percent of young adults in the United States believe other people "can't be trusted," according to a recent Pew Research survey, which found that younger Americans were far more likely than older adults to distrust both institutions and other people. But adults of all ages did agree on one thing: They all lack confidence in elected leaders.
While united in a lack of confidence, the cohorts disagreed on whether that's a major problem. The study found that young adults (ages 18-29) were less likely than older Americans to believe that poor confidence in the federal government, the inability of Democrats and Republicans to work together, and the influence of lobbyists and special interest groups were "very big problems."