State lawmakers opt to repeal nursing home voting bill

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Texas lawmakers voted last week to repeal a previously-passed piece of legislation designed to improve voting procedures for nursing home residents.

The bill, H.B. 658, would create a process where election judges would deliver absentee ballots to nursing and other care facilities for residents to fill out. The facilities would be designated as polling places, in an effort to discourage political representatives from trying to persuade residents to vote a certain way.

The bi-partisan legislation passed and was signed by Gov. Jim Abbott (R) in June of this year. He tweeted ahead of the vote that the bill was “targeting voter fraud at nursing homes,” and that “seniors' votes shouldn't be stolen.” It was slated to take effect Sept. 1.

Last week the Texas House voted to repeal the law, with some Republican lawmakers calling the bill's initial passage an “oversight.” An amendment to repeal the law was attached to a bill concerning voter fraud, and approved in an 89-48 vote.

Rep. Craig Goldman (R-Fort Worth), the lawmaker who kickstarted the move to repeal the bill, said he had received concerns about it from election judges who said oversee voting in nursing homes would use up their resources.

Supporters of the law on both sides said the problem may have been that both sides supported the bill. Democratic lawmakers have pitched new amendments to keep the nursing home voting bill in place, but those were shot down.

“It's a sad commentary on politics in Texas,” Rep. Tom Oliverson (R-Cypress) told The Texas Tribune. “People get nervous when they see the other side in favor of something, because they assume it gives them an advantage in elections.”

Pending House approval of the larger voter fraud bill it would move on and require reconciliation with a Senate version that does not include a repeal of the nursing home voting law, the Tribune reported.