After A Bitter Fight, The Texas House Passes A Restrictive Voting Bill

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Texas Republican House Speaker Dade Phelan strikes his gavel as the House votes on an amendment to election bill SB1 on Thursday. The legislation easily passed in the GOP-led chamber.

Eric Gay/AP

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Eric Gay/AP

Map: See Which States Have Restricted Voter Access, And Which States Have Expanded It

The GOP-led state Senate has passed a similar measure. The House bill will now head to the Senate.

The House legislation in Texas would add new ID requirements for people seeking to vote by mail; add new criminal penalties to the voting process; empower partisan poll watchers; and ban drive-thru and 24-hour voting options, steps taken last year by Harris County, home to Houston.

Harris County officials have said that voters of color made up the majority of people who took advantage of the 24-hour voting option. Separately, an ACLU of Texas report found that more than 70% of prosecutions for alleged voting crimes conducted by the state attorney general’s office have targeted Black and Latino voters.

Democrats and voting rights activists say the Texas provisions are unneeded restrictions that stem from baseless claims of election fraud by former President Donald Trump and his allies, and which would particularly harm disabled voters, voters of color and urban voters in a state with fast-changing demographics.

Republicans said their efforts are in service of «election integrity» to make it harder to cheat — though proven cases of voter or election fraud are exceedingly rare. They say the changes enacted by Harris County last year were unauthorized expansions of voting rules.

While the outcome in Texas was essentially a foregone conclusion — Republicans control the statehouse — Democrats can argue that their disruptive tactics influenced the ultimate legislation. The bill that nearly passed in late May, for instance, would have cut down on Sunday voting — a provision that one Republican state representative said was a mistake, a «scrivener’s error.»

Texas will soon become the latest GOP-run state to enact new voting restrictions, joining Georgia, Florida, Arizona and others.

And while the swing states that have added new voter restrictions this year have gotten more attention, more states — mostly led by Democrats — have passed into law measures that expand voting access. That includes Nevada and Illinois.


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