Democrats blast cuts to early voting days

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Associated Press

Posted on April 9, 2013 at 6:32 AM

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Democrats in the Texas House on Monday blasted a Republican proposal to reduce the number of early voting days in Texas, as well as other proposed changes to the state's election laws.

Rep. Patricia Harless, R-Spring, introduced HB 2093, which would cut five days from the current 12-day early voting period because she said it is difficult for county election officials to recruit enough volunteers to operate the polls.

Conservative groups, such as True the Vote and the Texas Republican County Chairman's Association, supported the bill because they have trouble recruiting poll observers for the full 12 days and said it would save counties money.

"This would be a one-third reduction of election costs," Erin Anderson, a member of True the Vote told the House Elections Committee. She said it would be better to add more voting locations for fewer days.

More than half of Texas voters cast their ballots during the early voting period, and Democrats representing working-class districts noted that Florida, which passed similar legislation two years ago, was planning to return to a longer early voting period. Rep. Gene Wu, D-Houston, also noted that the Legislative Budget Board determined changing the law would not save money.

Committee vice chairman Rep. Boris Miles, D-Houston, said the bill was exactly the same as other measures introduced across the country in Republican-controlled states.

"This is about the suppression of voters in the state of Texas and I don't think the people of Texas want to go in that direction," he said.

Nearly a dozen witnesses spoke against the measure, insisting that any changes to a decade-old system would only lead to fewer people casting their ballots. Others said the state should be making it easier to vote, not less convenient.

Also Monday, Rep. Scott Sanford, R-McKinney, introduced a bill that would require bond initiatives put before voters to include information about the city's or county's Standard and Poor's credit rating or the school district's state comptroller rating. Credit ratings are used by the bond market to determine a community's debt load and ability to pay back the bonds plus interest.

Supporters say it will help voters understand their community's existing debt, but critics say the law would result in the voter seeing too little information about the bond issue. One limitation is the size of the tablets used by voters, which is limited to 1,000 characters per ballot item.

Another measure would require the Texas Secretary of State's office to cross-check voter registrations with other states. Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth, said House Bill 2372 would make sure people are not registered to vote in two different states, but opponents said the databases are too full of errors to be reliable.

Lawmakers also considered a proposal to install video feeds at polling stations intended to let voters know whether there is a line. Another bill would call for all general elections to take place on the first Tuesday of November.

The committee did not vote on whether to recommend the laws to the full House and left them pending.

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On the Internet:

House Bill 2093 on early voting: http://www.legis.state.tx.us/BillLookup/Text.aspx?LegSess=83R&Bill=HB2093

House Bill 960 on county bond initiatives: http://www.legis.state.tx.us/BillLookup/Text.aspx?LegSess=83R&Bill=HB960

House Bill 961 on city bond initiatives: http://www.legis.state.tx.us/BillLookup/Text.aspx?LegSess=83R&Bill=HB961

House Bill 2372 on interstate voter checks: http://www.legis.state.tx.us/BillLookup/Text.aspx?LegSess=83R&Bill=HB2372

House Bill 962 on school district bond initiatives: http://www.legis.state.tx.us/BillLookup/Text.aspx?LegSess=83R&Bill=HB962

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