Effort in Texas legislature to ban college polling locations

Rep. Carrie Isaac (R-Wimberly) has introduced a bill that would ban polling places on college campuses.

House Bill (HB) 2390 would take effect September 1, 2023 and prohibit campus polling places as designated by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Defined as all state universities and junior colleges, an “institution of higher education” would not be designatable as a polling place by the commissioners court of any county.

This filing by Isaac can be seen as a response to Rep. Gina Hinojosa’s (D-Austin) HB 644, which allows counties to designate polling places at the location of college campuses if at least 8,000 students are enrolled.

Republicans have filed a variety of election-related bills for the 88th Legislative Session, garnering both public support and opposition.

Move Texas, a youth voter advocacy group, released a statement on Isaac’s filing of HB 2390 calling it “one of the most insidious attempts to silence young voters in Texas.”

University of Houston survey results showed there was strong bipartisan support for a variety of election reform propositions including anti-fraud, campaign finance, gerrymandering, and early voting.

More than 80 percent of Texans support a ban on partisan gerrymandering for congressional elections.

Over two-thirds support reforms related to Election Day; 76 percent support a reform that would require the wait times for in-person voting to be below 30 minutes, and 71 percent support making Election Day a public holiday.

Anti-fraud reforms show bipartisan support, with 91 percent of Republicans and 83 percent of Democrats in support of a transparent post-election audit. A requirement for states to provide voter-verified paper ballots also shows high support with 87 percent of Republicans and 84 percent of Democrats in favor.

The 2013 U.S. Supreme Court case Shelby v. Holder allowed states to make voting law changes without federal preclearance. Since then, Texas has amassed national attention for its voter ID and anti-vote harvesting laws.

Texas voters have shown mixed enthusiasm, as the most recent gubernatorial election in 2022 had just 46 percent of the over 17 million registered voters cast ballots compared to the 53 percent who voted in the 2018 midterm.

Public demand for transparency and accountability from officials in charge of voting has been an ongoing issue throughout the state, such as in the state’s largest county facing multiple election contests.

Cracking down on illegal voting is a priority for some this legislative session. State Rep. Andrew Murr (R-Junction) filed HB 39 to restore the illegal voting penalty to a state jail felony.

Rep. Bryan Slaton (R-Royse City) filed HB 239, which would close primaries in Texas, requiring voters to be affiliated with the political party in whose primary they vote.

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