Mar 17, 2023 - News

Texas bills would ban schools from serving as polling sites

Illustration of a felt pennant with a checkmark on it being covered in a felt no-sign.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

A Texas representative is proposing to ban voting on school campuses statewide.

Why it matters: Texas regularly has lower voter turnout than the rest of the country, and the state has repeatedly added new restrictions tied to voting.

  • Changes to early and in-person voting during the 2021 legislative session included banning drive-thru voting, changing mail-in ballot ID requirements and allowing partisan poll watchers.

Driving the news: Republican state Rep. Carrie Isaac from Hays County has filed House Bill 2390 and House Bill 4465, which would prohibit primary, secondary and higher education campuses from serving as polling locations.

The big picture: State lawmakers are poised to sort through dozens of voting-related bills this legislative session, including one that would prohibit people ages 65 and older without a disability from voting by mail and one that would make voting illegally a felony.

Reality check: Colleges across the country have long served as polling sites, and they're often a stop for political candidates on tour.

  • Harris County routinely uses Houston ISD and other Houston-area schools as polling sites, including the University of Houston, Texas Southern University, Rice University and several community colleges, according to the Harris County Election Administrator's Office.

Yes, but: Isaac says she believes her voting bills, part of an overall campus safety package, would make campuses more secure by keeping outsiders away.

  • Many Texas schools serving as polling sites during November's midterm elections decided not to hold classes because of safety concerns.
  • "We must do everything we can to make our school campuses as safe as possible; they should not serve as a target-rich environment for those that wish to harm children," Isaac said in a news release.

The other side: Voter rights advocates say H.B. 2390, which would prohibit polling places on college campuses, would make it more difficult for college students in Texas to exercise their right to vote.

  • "For many of the students who live on campus, this is their only opportunity to be able to vote," Amber Mills of the nonpartisan grassroots organization MOVE Texas, tells The Daily Texan.

Go deeper: The latest episode of the Y'all-itics podcast explores Texas' evolving election regulations.


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