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Fahrenthold: Election reform aims to benefit Republicans, but some ‘may get snagged’

A dog looks out the car of a voter while they approach a mail in ballot drop off location on October 13, 2020, in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Sergio Flores/Getty Images)

There is an ongoing effort in a number of mostly Republican-controlled states, including Texas, to change voting rules and implement some kind of election reform.

A Texas native himself, Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold joined Seattle’s Morning News to explain the latest development in his home state.

Fahrenthold: Nothing unites the Republican Party ‘like Trump’s agenda’

The Legislature was about to pass a bill — and the governor was expected to sign it — that a lot of people think is designed to restrict Democratic votes, but then all the Democrats walked out.

“They walked out and it killed the bill, at least for now,” Fahrenthold said. “There was a timeline, the legislative session had to end, and the Democrats, by walking out, denied the Republicans a quorum so they couldn’t pass anything for the last couple hours of the session.”

“[The reform] expanded some dropboxes in places where a lot of Republicans live. In places like Harris County, which is Houston, where I’m from, it would have really restricted the ability of local folks, local authorities to put out dropboxes,” he explained. “It would have started Sunday voting at one o’clock instead of at 11 o’clock, which was apparently designed to keep the ‘souls to the polls’ programs for Black churches from working as well. It would have done a lot of things basically to depress the Democratic vote in big cities.”

So the Democrats walked out. It could, however, come up again if the governor were to call a special session later in the year. He’s already planned to do so for redistricting, so Fahrenthold says he could add in election reform.

“But it means if it comes up, it will come up in a few months, likely after this initial wave of momentum from Republicans has died down,” he said.

In addition to the provisions mentioned above, there’s also effort that has been seen in a couple other states as well that would essentially make voter registration expire faster if you don’t vote.

“I think with the idea that if you come back to try to vote later, that you’ll find that it’s expired and either you get discouraged and leave, or you don’t have enough time to register before that particular election,” Fahrenthold said about the purpose of the provision.

But that would apply to all voters, regardless of party.

“That’s one of the weird things about this, is the way the Republicans have gone after this, it’s designed as if they still have the same voting base they always did, which was reliable suburbanites,” Fahrenthold said. “That’s why Republicans were always thought to have done better in midterms because their people vote more often, but the the Trump coalition is different.”

“Trump has drawn out a lot of people who don’t vote in midterms, who don’t vote very often, they’ll vote only for him,” he added. “And so I think that’s the idea is that they’re going to make it harder to vote and so only Republicans will vote. But there are a lot of Trump voters who might be hit by this as well.”

Fahrenthold says a lot of the Republican states are trying to attack what Democrats did in 2020, which was unique because it was an election impacted by COVID-19. They’ve attacked things like vote-by-mail and early voting, which Republicans have traditionally done in the past.

“So they’re fighting the last war in that situation,” he said. “But they’re also, I think, presupposing that their voters are the ones who will jump through more hoops, who will have voter ID, who will sort of be more in touch with the bureaucracy and so therefore more able to navigate the system.”

“But again, Trump voters are often people who don’t vote very often, and they may get snagged by this stuff too,” he added. “If Trump is the one who runs in 2024.”

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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