The future of a bill that trims down the early voting period is uncertain after its author withdrew it from committee consideration Monday following logistical concerns from the attorney general’s office and county election officials.
House Bill 288, authored by state Rep. Mark Keough, R-The Woodlands, would have shrunk the early voting period from 12 to seven days and pushed it closer to Election Day.
Jason Millsaps, Keough’s chief of staff, said the attorney general’s office had concerns with how the bill could impact litigation over the state’s voter ID law. The attorney general’s office was worried prosecutors in federal court could potentially use HB 288 as an example of attempted voter suppression, Millsaps said.
“This bill is not intending to lessen turnout from anyone,” Millsaps said. “Its attempt is to lessen the burden on our counties to manage the many days during early voting, which can be incredibly expensive.”
Millsaps said the bill would make early voting more compact by compressing it to one week, saving counties from wasting taxpayer money on days with low turnout.
While some counties see turnout spike during the first few days, and again in the final days of early voting, many voters in other counties do take advantage of the middle of the period — when turnout typically lags — to cast their ballots, said Cinde Weatherby, president of the League of Women Voters in Austin.
“You think you’ve got some time and it just slips away from you,” Weatherby said.
Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir said her staff had concerns that her staff would struggle to get its work done with just a day between the end of early voting and Election Day.
Even under current rules, it is “extraordinarily difficult” to properly secure and distribute information to polling sites, DeBeauvoir said.
“Anything that puts extra pressure on Election Day is going in the wrong direction,” DeBeauvoir said.
Millsaps said the bill will most likely be delayed until next session.