Texas lawmakers on Saturday finished drafting a bill to impose a series of new voting restrictions to determine the likely passage of one of the most far-reaching laws in the Republican nationwide initiative to overhaul electoral systems and limit voting.
The bill would tighten the country’s already strictest voting laws, specifically targeting voting methods first used by Harris County, home of Houston, last year.
In addition to banning drive-through voting and 24-hour voting, which was used by nearly 140,000 Harris County voters during the 2020 election, the law would prohibit election officials from sending postal ballot papers to all voters, regardless of who whether they had requested this ;; Prohibition of using tents, garages, mobile units or any temporary structure as a polling station; further limitation of who can vote absent; and add new identification requirements for voting by mail.
Partisan poll observers would also have greater access and autonomy under the provisions of the law, and electoral officials could be punished more severely for making mistakes or otherwise violating electoral codes and laws.
The bill, which was passed in a closed panel of legislators, is now being passed to a final vote on both houses of the Republican-led legislature with no option for either party to attempt to change the legislation. Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican who has said an election overhaul is a priority, is widely expected to sign the bill. Since the bill must be publicly available for 24 hours before a vote takes place, lawmakers cannot pass it before Sunday.
Texas is one of several Republican-led states – including Iowa, Georgia, and Florida – that have moved since the 2020 presidential contest to pass new laws, regulate elections, and restrict voting. The impetus comes from both Republicans’ desire to appease their grassroots, the majority of whom continue to believe former President Donald J. Trump’s lies about a stolen election, and the party’s concern over a change of voters that undermines the GOP’s long-standing influence on power could endanger places like Texas, the second largest state in the country.
Republican lawmakers have often cited voter concerns about electoral fraud – fears fueled by Trump, other Republicans, and the conservative media – to justify new election restrictions, despite no evidence of widespread fraud in the recent American election.
And in their campaign, Republicans overcame objections from Democrats, constituencies and big corporations. Companies like American Airlines, Dell Technologies and Microsoft spoke out against Texan law shortly after the law was passed, but the pressure has so far been largely ineffective.
A public version of the invoice was not posted online until 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time, but the New York Times received a copy of it and confirmed with Republican officials that it was the final version.
The final 67-page bill, known as the S.B. 7 turned out to be the amalgamation of two collective votes that had worked their way through state legislation. It contained many of the provisions originally put in place by the Republicans, but lawmakers dropped some of the strictest, such as an ordinance on the allocation of voting machines that would have closed polling stations in color communities, and a measure that would have allowed partisan election observers to record the voting process on video.
However, the bill contains a provision that could make it easier to overthrow an election. Previously, Texas electoral law had stipulated that reversing election results due to fraud allegations required evidence that illegal votes actually resulted in an illegitimate victory. If the bill is passed, the number of fraudulent votes required to do so should simply be equal to the difference in the winning votes. It wouldn’t matter who the fraudulent votes were cast for.
Democrats and constituencies were quick to condemn the bill.
“SB 7 is a ruthless law,” said Sarah Labowitz, director of politics and advocacy for the American Civil Liberties Union in Texas. “It is aimed at color voters and voters with disabilities in a state that is already the most difficult voting place in the country. “
But Republicans celebrated the bill. State Representative Briscoe Cain and Senator Bryan Hughes, his sponsors, praised the bill as “the product of years of hard work.”
“We are honored that these efforts result in a bill that provides security and accessibility,” said lawmakers in a statement on Friday announcing an agreement on the bill. “Even if the national media minimizes the importance of electoral integrity, Texan law has not subscribed to the headlines or signaling corporate virtues.”
The bill took its final form after a controversial month-long debate that included a session that lasted until 4:30 a.m. Backroom negotiations; Procedural errors of the legislature; and an extended, passionate debate by the Democrats who tried to prevent the law from being passed through political and legislative maneuvers.
On Friday night, after Mr Cain and Mr Hughes said the legislature had reached an agreement, Democrats on the committee working on the final bill cried badly and said they had not seen the finished version.
Voting groups have long called Texas one of the toughest states in the country for voters to cast ballots. One Recent study from Northern Illinois University, Texas ranked last on an index that measures the difficulty of voting. A number of factors were cited in the report, including the deadline for personal registration of voters in Texas 30 days before polling day, a drastic reduction in polling stations in some parts of the state, strict voter identification laws, a limited and onerous process the postal vote a lack of early voting options.
In the preamble to the new bill, the authors appear to be proactively protecting the legislature from criticism from Democrats and constituencies, stating that “reforms of this state’s electoral law through this law should not affect the right of the free suffrage enjoyed by the people of Texas United States and Texas Constitutions, however, are issued only to prevent fraud in the electoral process and to ensure that all legally cast ballots are counted. “
In March, Keith Ingram, the Texas Department of Foreign Affairs’s polling officer, testified last year’s election in the state had been “smooth and secure”. He added, “Texans can rightly be proud of the hard work and creativity that local election officials display.”
A day before the Texas law was released, a new report highlighted widespread national efforts by Republicans to restrict voting.
Amid months of false claims by former President Donald J. Trump that the 2020 elections were stolen from him, Republican lawmakers in many states are marching forward to pass laws that make it harder to vote and change the way elections are conducted, something the Democrats and even some do Elections frustrate officials in their own party.
- A key issue: The rules and procedures of elections have become a central issue in American politics. The Brennan Center for Justice, a liberal-minded institute for law and justice at New York University, counts 361 bills in 47 states trying to tighten the voting rules. At the same time, 843 bills were introduced with provisions to improve access to voting.
- The basic measures: Restrictions vary by state, but may include restricting the use of ballot boxes, adding identification requirements for voters requesting postal votes, and removing local laws that allow automatic registration for postal voting.
- Other extreme measures: Some measures go beyond changing voting results, including adjusting electoral college and judicial electoral rules, curbing citizen-led electoral initiatives, and banning private donations that provide resources for managing elections.
- Pushback: These Republican efforts have led the Democrats in Congress to find a way to get federal electoral laws passed. A comprehensive draft voting rights was passed by parliament in March, but faces difficult obstacles in the Senate. Republicans have agreed against the proposal, and even if the law did go into effect, it would likely face major legal challenges.
- Florida: Measures include restricting the use of dropboxes, adding more identification requirements for postal ballot papers, requiring voters to request a postal vote at every election, limiting who can collect and submit ballot papers, and further empowering partisan observers during the election counting process.
- Texas: The next big step could come here, with the Republicans in the legislature pushing aside the objections of the corporate titans and putting forward a massive electoral law that would be among the heaviest in the nation. This would place new restrictions on early voting, prohibit drive-through voting, threaten election officials with harsher penalties, and highly empower partisan poll observers.
- Other states: Republican-controlled legislation in Arizona has passed a law aimed at restricting postal ballot distribution. The bill, which includes removing voters from the state’s permanent pre-election list if they do not cast a vote at least every two years, may be just the first in a series of voting restrictions enacted there. Georgia Republicans passed sweeping new voting laws in March that restrict ballot boxes and make the distribution of water within certain limits of a polling station an offense. Iowa has also set new boundaries, including reducing the deadline for early voting and personal voting hours on election day. And voting restriction bills were passed in the Republican-led legislature in Michigan.
By May 14, the legislature had passed 22 new laws in 14 states to make the voting process more difficult, according to the report of the Brennan Center for Justice, a research institute.
While Republicans won Texas slightly last year – Mr Trump led the state with more than 630,000 votes and the party retained control of both houses of the legislature – turnout rose in cities and densely populated suburbs that are becoming increasingly democratic. In Harris County, one of the largest counties in the country, voter turnout rose nearly 10 percent.
The original version of the Republicans Law put these densely populated districts right in the crosshairs, trying to ban measures taken during the 2020 elections that helped cause voter turnout to hit record highs. The original bill banned drive-through voting, a new method used by 127,000 Harris County voters, and the 24-hour voting, which took place in a single day in the county and was used by approximately 10,000 voters.
While these provisions were omitted in an earlier draft of the bill en route through the legislature, they were reintroduced in the final draft of the bill, despite the fact that the bill stipulates that early voting starts as early as 6 a.m. and continues until 9 p.m. open on weekdays. At least two weekend days are also kept for early voting.
Texas, more than any other state, has also gone to great lengths to give partisan election observers more autonomy and authority. The observers have been a cornerstone of American voting for years and are seen as a watchdog for election officials. However, their role is increasingly controversial, especially in Texas. Republican election observers were particularly encouraged by Mr Trump, who implored them to go to major cities across the country and look for non-existent election fraud.
Across Texas, during the 2020 election, there was an increase in individual complaints from aggressive election observers, often on the Republican side, harassing both color voters and election officials.
The new bill would make it a crime to deny observers admission to polling stations or block their ability to fully observe the process. It is said that election observers must be able to “sit or stand [conveniently] close enough to see and hear the election officials. “
This would also make it easier for partisan survey observers to successfully take legal action if they argue that they have been wrongly rejected or hindered.
Additionally, the bill would restrict who can be absent from the mail in Texas as there is no universal, no-excuse, out-of-office voting. The bill states that people with a disability can vote absent, but a voter with “an illness, injury or disability that does not prevent the voter from appearing at the polling station on polling day” cannot vote absent.
In the midst of the new restrictions, there are several provisions that provide more transparency in the administration of elections. The districts must now provide video surveillance of the polling facilities and eventually make these videos available to the public. Conversations with providers of voting machines must also be accessible to the public.