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Democrats Question Effort to Reduce Early Voting Period

Filipa Rodrigues, KUT News

Update at 7:16 p.m. The office of State Rep. Patricia Harless, R-Spring, tells KUT News that she will no longer pursue a vote on her bill to reduce the number of days of early voting. 

Earlier: An effort to reduce the number of early voting days in Texas received a blistering response from Democrats today at the state Capitol, as members of the House Elections committee said they suspected the bill was intended to disenfranchise minority voters.

Among those testifying in favor of House Bill 2093 was Skipper Wallace of the Texas Republican County Chairman’s Association.  He said reducing the number of early voting days from 12 to seven would save money and still provide plenty of time for people to cast a ballot.

But Democratic State Representative Gene Wu (D-Houston) challenged Wallace's claim that it would not hurt turnout. 

“There are no studies?” Wu asked Wallace.

"No," Wallace replied.

"There are no reports?" Wu said.

"Nope," Wallace said.

"You're pulling this out of thin air," Wu responded. 

"It's my educated guess," said Wallace.

"Based on what?" Wu asked. 

"Twenty-one years of experience," Wallace said. 

Wu continued, "Do you have any studies to show that?" 

"No," Wallace said. 

"Do you have any reports to show that?" Wu asked again.

"No. Neither do you," responded Wallace. 

"But I'm not trying to change the status quo," Wu said. 

Earlier, the committee's vice chair, State Rep. Miles Borris (D-Houston) alleged that Wallace and other proponents of the effort to shorten voting days were part of a coordinated campaign to suppress voter turnout.

"I know that this is a national move across the country," Borris said. 

But Wallace rejected the allegation. 

"I have county chairs from all over the state of Texas complaining about the cost per vote to hold elections, and that's how we came up with this idea," Wallace said. 

The bill was left pending in committee today.

In Travis County, sixty percent of people who cast a ballot did so during early voting in the November 2012 elections.

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @KUTnathan.
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