In closed-circuit revisions, Republicans added language that might make it easier for a judge to overthrow an election, and postponed starting the Sunday vote when there were many black churchgoers in the polls. The 67-page measure would also eliminate drive-through and 24-hour polling stations, both of which are Harris County, the state’s largest Democratic stronghold. introduced last year.
Texas is the final major battlefield in the GOP’s nationwide effort to tighten electoral law, due to former President Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him. Georgia and Florida have also introduced new voting restrictions, and President Joe Biden on Saturday compared the Texas bill unfavorably to election changes in those states as an “attack on democracy”.
The Texas Senate vote came just a short time after a final version of the bill was released on Saturday. Around midnight, Republicans used their majority to suspend rules that would normally prohibit voting on a bill that had not been published for 24 hours. The Democrats protested in violation of protocol that denied them and the public time to check the language first.
The law would re-empower partisan election observers by giving them better access to polling stations and threatening criminal sanctions against election officials who restrict their movement. Republicans originally proposed giving election observers the right to take photos, but that language was removed from the final bill that lawmakers were due to vote on this weekend.
Another new provision could also make it easier to overturn an election in Texas so that a judge can invalidate a result if the number of fraudulent votes cast could change the result, regardless of whether the result has been proven to be fraudulent influenced.
Election officials would also face new criminal penalties, including offenses for mailing voting requests to people who have not requested one. The Texas District and County Attorneys Association tweeted that it had included at least 16 new, expanded, or aggravated crimes related to elections in the bill.
The GOP legislators are also trying to ban voting on Sunday before 1 p.m. Critics have called this an attack on what is commonly known as “souls for the election” – an election campaign carried out by black parishes across the country. The idea goes back to the civil rights movement. Democratic State MP Nicole Collier, Chair of the Texas Legislature Black Caucus, said the change will “decouple those who use souls for voting.”
Republican Senator Bryan Hughes said in the Senate why the vote could not start earlier on Sunday: “Election workers want to go to church too.”
Collier was one of three Democrats selected to negotiate the final version, neither of whom signed his name. She said she saw a bill around 11 p.m. Friday – which was different from one she had received earlier that day – and asked for her signature the next morning.
Large corporations, including Texas-based American Airlines and Dell, have warned the measures could damage democracy and the business climate. But Republicans shrugged off their objections and, in some cases, tore down business leaders for speaking out.
Texas already has some of the strictest voting restrictions in the country and is regularly referred to by non-partisan groups as a particularly difficult state to vote in. It was one of the few states that didn’t make it easier to vote by mail during the pandemic.
Leading Republican negotiators Hughes and Rep. Briscoe Cain called the bill “one of the most comprehensive and sensible electoral reform bills” in Texas history.
“While the national media minimizes the importance of electoral integrity, Texan law has not focused on headlines or signaling corporate virtues,” said a joint statement.
According to the New York-based Brennan Center for Justice, at least 14 states have enacted more restrictive electoral laws since Trump’s defeat. It also counted nearly 400 bills filed nationwide that year that would limit voting.
Republican lawmakers in Texas have insisted the changes are not a response to Trump’s false claims of widespread fraud, but are necessary to restore confidence in the voting process. Some of the state’s top GOP politicians, including Attorney General Ken Paxton, who brought a failed lawsuit in the US Supreme Court to try to overthrow the election, have raised doubts about the election results.
Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, chairman of Trump’s presidential campaign in Texas, offered a $ 1 million reward to anyone presenting evidence of election fraud. Non-partisan research into previous elections has shown that electoral fraud is extremely rare. State officials from both parties, including Texas, as well as international observers also said the 2020 elections went well.