The Texas House gave the green light to a bill Monday that supporters say would increase voter turnout by allowing parents with children younger than 5 years old to participate in curbside voting.
House Bill 2898 by Rep. Art Fierro, D-El Paso, was given preliminary approval by the House on an informal voice vote. It will still require a final vote from the House before heading to the Senate for consideration. (Update: The House gave the bill final approval in a 90-52 vote on May 8.)
The measure “simply allows but does not require election authorities to offer curbside voting for parents,” said Fierro.
Texas law currently requires curbside voting for people with disabilities. HB 2898, meanwhile, leaves it up to local election officials on whether to offer curbside voting for parents with young children. The bill also creates a study to be performed by the Texas Secretary of State’s office that would evaluate the best practices for curbside voting with children and report it to the legislature by December 2020. The bill would come at no cost to the state, according to an analysis by the state’s Legislative Budget Board.
Critics of the bill say it would create an additional task for election officials and could take away from the existing curbside voting process for people with disabilities. State Rep. Valoree Swanson, R-Spring, raised the concern that parents would bring their children just to “skip the line” in polling places with long waits at a House Elections Committee meeting in April.
Adrianne Moody, co-founder of El Paso nonprofit Moms on Board, said the group brought the bill to Fierro after organizing their own informal curbside swap system on election days. For the past two years, Moody said the group organized the swap through a Facebook group, where group members with young children would switch off watching one another’s children and voting. However, since the group has grown to almost 8,000 members, Moody said it was no longer feasible for Moms on Board to do it on their own.
“We don’t want to take away the voting experience for children,” Moody said. “We want to encourage that, but when you’re in the thick of it all with a newborn and a 3 year old, it’s just making it a little easier.”
Shannon Najmabadi contributed to this report.
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