The Texas legislature just can't stop tinkering with their voting laws. Earlier this week, I detailed two new bills that are primarily designed to limit access to the polls: one requires voters to present photo identification, the other puts restrictions on who can register new voters.
The state House is tacking on one more constraint. Yesterday, it passed a bill that would classify ineligible voting as a second-degree felony. The Dallas Morning News notes that current second-degree felonies include manslaughter, aggravated assault, rape, and the production of child pornography. Current Texas law already blocks noncitizens and undocumented immigrants from voting; the new measure essentially just operates as an extra layer of intimidation.
All three voting laws working their way through the Texas legislature this week are designed to impede groups that tend to vote for Democrats. The increased punishment for noncitizens will create an added reason for poll watchers to question Hispanic voters, whether they are in the country legally or not. Voter intimidation was a major concern in last fall's election, with one Tea Party group flooding voting stations with poll watchers attempting to suppress the vote. By categorizing illegal voting on the same level as assault, Texas Republicans are encouraging poll workers to continue harassing people attempting to cast their ballot, which could turn many people away from voting. In a state that only manages around 1/3 voter turnout during midterm elections, the state should be looking to encourage people to vote rather scaring people off.