Republican lawmakers in the Texas Legislature have filed numerous bills that they say aim to strengthen state laws regulating the election process – which has drawn a firestorm of opposition from the mainstream press.
Election integrity is a priority for Texas Republicans, after overwhelmingly voting to make the issue their number one legislative priority at their state convention last year.
But what does the legislation they put forward do?
An analysis detailing current election integrity legislation before the legislature by the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), a non-partisan conservative-leaning think-tank, explains how the two main bills, HB6 by State Rep Briscoe Cain and SB7 by State Senator Bryan Hughes work.
Among the reforms HB6 includes is removing deceased voters from the voting roles, improving chain of custody requirements for transporting and possessing ballots, and prohibits election officials from sending out unsolicited main-in ballot applications.
The report also states that SB7 does a lot of the same things HB6 does yet has some of its unique reforms including creating a system to track main-in ballots, implements identification requirements that will bring in-person level safeguards to mail-in voting, prohibits private contributions over $1000 to underwrite elections, and increases civil penalties for election law violations.
Provisions that reign in drive-thru voting, end ballot drop boxes, and stop irregular extended voting hours seem to be the focal points of the media firestorm.
It is important to note that proponents of these bills point out that Texas law already does not allow for drive-thru voting and the other similar provisions that are the main points of contention. This would mean the legislation is simply seeking to reinforce existing law that local election officials violated in the last election.
While there are arguments these reforms will ensure more secure elections, you wouldn’t know it or think they mattered after reading the headlines – and that is the goal.
These bills and other ones similar to them currently working their way through the legislature have drawn a barrage of direct attacks by both state and national level media outlets – all echoing the same narrative that Texas GOP lawmakers want to restrict voting rights.
The coverage includes almost coordinated themes like “GOP-led voting restrictions”, “Texas Republicans’ crusade to further restrict voting”, “Texas GOP launches avalanche of bills to curtail voting” – and endless others.
It is important to take note of how these articles are constructed. It isn’t just reporting what the relevant parties are saying. Which, in cases like this its usually reporting from a neutral perspective what the Republicans are saying, and then what the Democrats are saying.
Rather the media is drawing their own conclusion (which coincidentally shares the same viewpoint as the Democrats) and injecting their biased argument into the issue under the headline tone of settled fact to which the Republicans are pitted against.
Some even go so far that it looks more like something an activist political action committee would publish, rather than a national news outlet.
The proper role the media should hold in this issue is simple: Report what the parties that are involved are saying, report as best as possible what the legislation says, and let the reader do the rest by drawing their own conclusions from the plain facts.
If you’re trying to inform the general public, which has a broad spectrum of political ideologies, do your best to inform them impartially.
If you’re sharing your opinion or trying to persuade others to your viewpoint, there’s nothing wrong with writing a commentary like this one, and publishing it in the editorial section where it belongs.
Honesty is always the best policy.