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New Texas voting law would shorten early voting hours and ban universal mail voting

United States presidential election, 2012 - United States

Amid a growing national debate over ballot access, several major companies have voiced concern over new laws that voting rights activists say would make it more difficult to cast a vote in Texas. 

Dell and American Airlines specifically spoke out against Texas Senate Bill 7 and its House counterpart, House Bill 6, while AT&T took a broader approach at the responsibility of lawmakers and a broader responsibility to engage. “Instead of seeking to limit access, governments should provide innovative pathways for citizens to have their voices heard. Legislation like HB6 does the opposite, and we are opposed to it,” Dell said in a statement, adding that voting rights had been especially “hard-earned” by “women and people of color.” Texas State Senate Republicans advanced SB7 in the early hours of Thursday morning.

The legislation aims to change existing voting rules, including by shortening early voting hours and banning drive-through voting, which was popular among heavily populated areas in November’s general election. The Senate bill also prohibits election officials from sending out mail voting applications to voters unless they individually requested the forms, and requires disabled voters to provide proof of disability from a physician or the federal government. While HB6 also included the Senate bill’s provisions regarding the solicitation of mail ballots, it also included new rules for how voters could be assisted in filling out their ballots and expanded poll-watchers’ access within polling places.

American Airlines took a strong stance directed at the Senate version of the bill, saying that it contained “provisions that limit voting access.” The airline’s statement continued, saying, “To make American’s stance clear: we are strongly opposed to this bill and others like it. As a Texas-based business, we must stand up for the rights of our team members and customers who call Texas home, and honor the sacrifices made by generations of Americans to protect and expand the right to vote.”

In a statement issued soon after American Airlines’ comment, Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick alleged that the airline’s government relations representative had called his office moments before and “admitted that neither he nor the American Airlines CEO had actually read the legislation.” He stated that “Texans are fed up with corporations that don’t share our values trying to dictate public policy. The majority of Texans support maintaining the integrity of our elections, which is why I made it a priority this legislative session.”

Some disability advocates say that SB7 would make disabled voters face the equivalent of a poll tax, given that not every disabled person who is eligible to vote is also able to present an official diagnosis document like the legislation demands. The backlash against Texas’ proposed legislation comes amid criticism from companies such as Delta and Coca-Cola against new voting laws passed by the state of Georgia, which are also aimed at securing elections, and after Major League Baseball announced its decision to move their summer All-Star game out of Atlanta in a statement that condemned “restrictions to the ballot box.”

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ARTICLE: CHLOE CHANDLER

POLITICS EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE

PHOTO CREDITS: PBS

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