WASHINGTON, D.C. — Over the weekend, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) took action on two election bills related to ballot access for voters with disabilities.
On Saturday, June 17, Abbott vetoed House Bill 3159, a bipartisan bill that would have improved voting access for Texas voters with disabilities, and on Sunday, June 18, he signed into law Senate Bill 477, which requires election workers to allow voters with mobility problems to skip the line when they vote in person.
H.B. 3159 would have allowed voters who have a disability and need “assistive technology for marking or reading the ballot” to cast their mail-in ballots “privately and securely” via an electronic system. Heralded by disability advocates as a “huge step forward,” H.B. 3159 was co-authored by state Reps. John Bucy (D) and Jeff Leach (R) and passed the Texas Legislature with near unanimous support from both parties. Texas already uses an electronic system for military and overseas voters, and multiple other states have implemented similar accessible ballot systems.
S.B. 477 mandates that voters with mobility-related disabilities be given priority line access at the polls. Previously, election officials had the option to provide priority access but were not required to do so. The bill also requires all polling places to reserve two marked parking spaces for those unable to enter the polling place, and mandates that all polling place entrances display the new voting-order mandate.
Abbott has yet to give his reasoning for vetoing H.B. 3159, which will prevent one of just a handful of pro-voting bills passed in the Texas Legislature from taking effect. S.B. 477, however, takes effect immediately.
Correction: Abbott issued the following statement after vetoing H.B. 3159: “According to its author, H.B. 3159 is intended “to benefit blind, visually impaired Texans, people with dyslexia, or persons with limited dexterity of their arms or hands such as persons with quadriplegia.” While this intent is laudable, the text of the bill is not limited to assisting this group. Instead, it allows any voter who qualifies to vote by mail to receive a ballot electronically. I look forward to working with the author to craft language that achieves his worthy goal, without unintended consequences.”