Voting in the 2020 election presented Zoe Douglas with a difficult choice: As a therapist meeting with patients over Zoom late into the evening, she just wasn’t able to wrap up before polls closed during early voting.
Then Harris County introduced 24-hour voting for a single day. At 11 p.m. on the Thursday before the election, Ms. Douglas joined fast-food workers, nurses, construction workers, night owls and other late-shift workers at NRG Arena, one of eight 24-hour voting sites in the county, where more than 10,000 people cast their ballots in a single night.
“I can distinctly remember people still in their uniforms — you could tell they just got off of work, or maybe they’re going to work; a very diverse mix,” said Ms. Douglas, 27, a Houston native.
Twenty-four-hour voting was one of a host of options Harris County introduced to help residents cast ballots, along with drive-through voting and proactively mailing out ballot applications. The new alternatives, tailored to a diverse work force struggling amid a pandemic in Texas’ largest county, helped increase turnout by nearly 10 percent compared with 2016; nearly 70 percent of registered voters cast ballots, and a task force found that there was no evidence of any fraud.
Yet Republicans are pushing measures through the State Legislature that would take aim at the very process that produced such a large turnout. Two omnibus bills, including one that the House is likely to take up in the coming week, are seeking to roll back virtually every expansion the county put in place for 2020.
The bills would make Texas one of the hardest states in the country to cast a ballot in. And they are a prime example of a Republican-led effort to roll back voting access in Democrat-rich cities and populous regions like Atlanta and Arizona’s Maricopa County, while having far less of an impact on voting in rural areas that tend to lean Republican.
Bills in several states are, in effect, creating a two-pronged approach to urban and rural areas that raises questions about the disparate treatment of cities and the large number of voters of color who live in them. That divide is helping to fuel opposition from corporations that are based in or have work forces in those places.