Poll workers in Texas are granted more autonomy by the state legislature, allowing them freedom of movement. This has caused some concern among voting rights advocates, as it could lead to confusion and potential voter intimidation. However, according to the ACLU of Texas, such cases are rare. What voters are most likely to encounter at their polling stations are friendly poll workers and other citizens who are committed to the democratic process.
Despite the long history of “election observation” and other forms of harassment at polling stations in the US, voter intimidation is relatively uncommon. In Texas, for example, partisan election observers are allowed “freedom of movement” around voting facilities, but they never have the right to intimidate voters. Before heading to the polls, it is important to know your rights as a voter and the rules in place at polling stations about what you can bring and wear. For example, a voter with a disability is someone with a “disease” or physical condition that prevents them from voting in person without risking their health.
Federal law also states that it is illegal to “intimidate, threaten, or coerce” any other person for the purpose of interfering with their right to vote or to vote according to their choice. If poll workers help a voter vote, election observers can observe that process in accordance with the state election code. The Texas Civil Rights Project emphasizes that avoiding dysfunction is essential for preventing mistrust in the electoral process and any potential threats, intimidation or violence. Although Texas could have done more to prevent these issues from arising, there were still enough incidents for legislators to consider revising parts of SB1 when they meet early next year. Voter and civil rights groups warned that the new law would disproportionately deprive voters of color in Texas of their rights. It is important to note that Texas law states that voters have the right to vote during work hours without being penalized or losing their pay.
However, this may not apply if a worker has two hours before or after work to vote. You can also confirm with your county elections office if voting on Election Day is restricted to places in your designated district or if you can vote at any polling place. The Texas Secretary of State's office has a list of counties where voters can vote at any polling place on Election Day. In Dallas, black voters reported being asked to hand over their phones and smartwatches before entering polling centers, which is not Texas policy. This raised suspicions of intimidation.
To combat this issue, a coalition of Texas voting rights groups runs voter protection hotlines in multiple languages and for people with disabilities. When driving seven or more sidewalk voters to a polling place simultaneously, the person must sign a form and indicate if they are also serving as a voting assistant for voters. Voting rights groups are still collecting and analyzing information but they believe there is enough evidence for the state to review some of its voting processes, including expanding online voter registration, reducing criminal penalties for election officials allowed under SB1, and strengthening voter education and outreach. Whether you vote in person, by mail or through the ballot box, you should never be made to feel unsafe or intimidated while exercising your freedom to vote. In Texas - which has been ranked among the most restrictive states for voting due to its strict rules on mail-in ballots and absentee voting - it is important to be aware of your rights as a voter.