The resolution also gives a nod to other ideas such as lengthening early voting, automatic voter registration, preventing “long lines at the polls,” and renewing the federal Voting Rights Act.
The resolution passed by a vote of 3-1, with Koch casting the lone dissenting vote.
“Without a concerted, bipartisan effort to ensure elections where voting is simple and less cumbersome, governments run the risk of elections being controlled by the few to determine the destiny of the many,” the resolution reads.
The resolution decries the storming of the U.S. Capitol and calls on the Texas Legislature to “increase vote by mail options for all Texas voters to increase voter participation and strengthen our democracy.”
Koch pummeled Jenkins and his resolution, calling the document “inflammatory” and contending that its effect would be the opposite of strengthening democracy.
The resolution states that “any perceived lack of trust in the electoral process is detrimental to all future elections.”
The commissioner argued that online voter registration and automatic voter registration does not increase faith in the electoral system, and Koch rebutted claims that concerns over voter fraud are inherently racist.
He criticized the resolution’s reference to the Brennan Center, an organization that characterizes laws such as Texas’ voter I.D. requirement as “deliberate voter suppression that often targets communities of color and young people.”
With respect to the resolution’s call to “restore the full protections of the Voting Rights Act,” part of which required preclearance by the U.S. Department of Justice for redistricting and other changes to election law in certain states including Texas, Koch accused Jenkins of ascribing racist motives to the state legislature and the public.
“This is the single most inflammatory piece that I’ve seen in this. You’re basically saying Texas is racist. You’re saying the state legislature is racist,” Koch said.
Koch called the resolution “foolish” and noted that reasonable people can disagree with the reforms laid out in the document and should not be grouped with those who stormed the U.S. Capitol or maligned as racist.
“It’s extremely inflammatory. You should be ashamed of yourself for putting that out there,” Koch said.
Koch asserted that more transparency is the key to increasing trust in the outcomes of elections, and suggested that rural counties should not have their election processes dictated from Austin.
“I believe the solution to this problem is radical transparency, and stop being a chicken about it,” Koch concluded.
Carol Donovan, the chairwoman of the Dallas County Democratic Party, testified in favor of the resolution, suggesting the document should not be controversial. She argued that increasing voter participation and removing hindrances to voting is a concept that should be widely favored.
“Texas has a well-known reputation for being a voter suppression state. You can Google that,” Donovan said.
The chairwoman made points against policies such as having only one dropbox per county for residents to drop off their mail-in ballots.
Democratic Commissioner John Wiley Price (D-Pct. 3) echoed the sentiment that anxiety over increased and simplified voter participation has racial motivations, pointing to outcry over the results of the 2020 presidential election.
“It was about people of color being able to exercise their franchise,” Price said.
Jenkins did not respond to the content of Koch’s criticisms.
“Commissioner Koch, don’t take my silence and, you know, discretion and not engaging with you as agreeing with anything that you’ve said,” Jenkins said.
Election Reforms Survey
The resolution references a survey conducted in October by the University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs — whose dean is former state Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin) — that indicated 66 percent of likely Texas voters supported online voter registration.
With a margin of error of just over 3 percent, the same study found 58 percent of likely Texas voters were also worried about voter fraud in connection to mail-in ballots.
When surveyors asked respondents whether they were concerned that an “increase in mail ballot use will increase election fraud,” 29 percent were very concerned, 29 percent were concerned, 16 percent were not concerned, and 26 percent were not at all concerned.
With regard to political affiliation, the survey reported 83 percent of Republicans were concerned while only 17 percent were unconcerned. Meanwhile, 70 percent of Democrats were unconcerned as opposed to 30 percent who were concerned.
38 percent of respondents strongly agreed with online voter registration, 28 percent agreed with the idea, 10 percent disagreed, 15 percent strongly disagreed, and nine percent had no opinion.
Automatic voter registration for all eligible voters also enjoyed the support of a majority among respondents. 33 percent strongly agreed, 18 percent agreed, 15 percent disagreed, a quarter strongly disagreed, and eight percent had no opinion.
28 percent of those surveyed strongly agreed with no-excuse mail ballots for all registered voters, 14 percent agreed, 16 percent disagreed, 29 percent strongly disagreed, and 13 percent had no opinion.
A more forward proposal, mailing every registered voter a ballot, was opposed by a majority of the respondents. 26 percent strongly agreed, 15 percent agreed and the same portion disagreed, 36 percent strongly disagreed, and eight percent had no opinion.
The survey also asked whether non-citizens should be allowed to vote in local elections, which was roundly rejected. Only 14 percent said they strongly agreed and 11 percent said they agreed. Meanwhile, 15 percent said they disagreed, 47 percent strongly disagreed, and only 13 percent had no opinion.
The resolution can be found below.
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Hayden Sparks is a senior reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."