As I mentioned in the previous post, the Houston Chronicle won a Pulitzer Prize for its editorial about the Big Lie and the follow-up efforts to suppress voting by those who might vote Democratic. It is a brilliant series, well deserving of a Pulitzer Prize. Here is another editorial that shines a bright light on the state legislature’s dastardly effort to curtail voting rights. How the Republican leaders voted to suppress voting rights while claiming to protect the integrity of elections.

You don’t say.

A voting bill that truly protects people’s rights instead of raiding them doesn’t need a shroud of darkness or legislative chicanery to prevail. It doesn’t run from the sun or shrivel under scrutiny. Only lies do.

The biggest problem Republican lawmakers have in pushing restrictive voting legislation in the name of integrity is that they themselves have none.

The latest example came Thursday, as the House Elections Committee abruptly took up Senate Bill 7, the upper chamber’s main voter-suppression legislation, without any warning and leaving no room for public comment. The bill aids voter intimidation by letting partisans film voters they find suspicious and takes aim at voting innovations that helped increase turnout in blue Harris County, including drive-thru voting.

Chairing the Elections Committee is none other than state Rep. Briscoe Cain, R-Deer Park, a young lawyer who earned his stripes in Texas-style voter integrity politics by proudly tweeting a photo of himself in November, in aviator glasses and a cowboy hat pulled low, announcing that he was headed to Pennsylvania to join Donald Trump’s quest to overthrow the presidential election through baseless allegations of voter fraud.

It surprised many when incoming House Speaker Dade Phelan entrusted Cain with his first chairmanship. It has been less surprising that Cain’s excellent adventure in committee leadership has, well, flunked most heinously. Last week, Cain blindsided fellow lawmakers by introducing a motion to substitute SB 7 with the language of his own bill, HB 6. His move, to hear him reason it, required no public discussion, since the committee had already discussed and approved the House bill.

Cain played it coy as Democrats sought clarification and questioned whether this would gut SB 7 and replace it wholesale with the language in HB 6. “I wouldn’t say that,” he responded.

Lesser and greater evil

HB 6 gives partisan poll watchers almost unlimited freedom inside a polling place and limits when they can be ejected to a narrow set of circumstances. It further criminalizes the electoral process, targeting elections officials who may fear that making a mistake could land them in jail (say, when trying to kick out a disruptive poll watcher). It also puts new burdens on those who assist voters who are elderly, disabled or have limited English proficiency, while also threatening them with a felony for even accidental violations of their oath.

SB 7 also contains broad protection of partisan poll watchers while also giving them the ability to record voters if they think they are violating election law. It increases burdens on volunteers that help people get to the polls, regulates the distribution of polling locations in large urban counties and bans mega voting sites, 24-hour poll locations and drive-thru voting.

Cain, speaking over lawmakers’ objections that they didn’t have time to consider the substituted language, likely would have bullied through if not for his fellow Republican, state Rep. Travis Clardy, of Nacogdoches, refusing to cast a vote.

After the committee reconvened later that day, Clardy supported the measure and the revised SB 7 — to mirror HB 6 — passed on a party-line vote. Still, it was nice that however briefly, at least one Republican on the committee believed that if you claim election bills are about honest elections, you should show a little honesty in discussing them.

In March, Chairman Cain — yet, again — broke with legislative rules in a decidedly less successful scheme. He left about 200 people who traveled to the Capitol to testify on HB 6 twiddling their thumbs after he strayed from procedure in a hasty attempt to block testimony from Rep. Nicole Collier, D-Fort Worth, chair of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus.

In April, the Senate approved SB 7 in the middle of the night — after a slew of amendments that few had a chance to read in full — with few people watching. As reported by the Chronicle, lawmakers adjourned at 1:39 a.m. April 1, then cleverly reconvened one minute later at 1:40 a.m. to declare a new legislative day, complete with a new roll call and a fresh prayer — thus complying with public notice rules without slowing down the bill’s passage.

“If you really think you’re securing the election, do it in the light of day,” says Emily Eby, an attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project. “If you really think you’re preserving the integrity of the ballot box, do it in front of Texans.”

Of course, Republican lawmakers don’t think anything of the sort. Not if they understand basic math, anyway. An analysis of voter fraud cases by this editorial board found that over the past 15 years and more than 94 million votes cast in Texas elections, the Texas Attorney General’s Office has prosecuted only 155 people, with few of them facing charges serious enough to warrant jail time.

The GOP’s true motivation is not preventing fraud in voting, but preventing broader voting across demographic lines from an electorate that’s growing younger and more diverse. The only threat at the polls is the GOP’s attempt to bar the door.