Gerald Welty sits the House Chamber at the Texas Capitol as he waits to hear debate on voter legislation in Austin, Texas, Thursday, May 6, 2021.

The vote came after an often heated debate on the floor of Texas House in which Democratic lawmakers urged the draftsman, GOP Rep. Briscoe Cain, to provide examples of the electoral fraud the bill sought to prevent.

“We don’t have to wait for bad things to happen,” Cain replied at one point.

The vote brings Texas closer to joining a number of other states battling to change the ground rules for future elections after former President Donald Trump repeatedly and unfounded claims that electoral fraud contributed to his loss last November. Across the country, Republicans have made efforts to restore voter confidence in the integrity of the elections. However, critics say the nationwide push is aimed at maintaining the GOP’s power on key battlefields by making it harder for people of color and younger voters to cast their ballots.

There is no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 elections.

“Most of these changes are not needed to make voting more efficient or to prevent fraud, which is rare in our elections,” said Richard Hasen, an expert on suffrage at the University of California at Irvine. “These measures are political and will be adopted politically for party-political reasons.”

The Texas move, now stemming from the Senate, would enable partisan polling observers to increase penalties for electoral crimes and prevent counties from sending unsolicited requests to vote by mail. It included democratic changes, including one that would allow election officials to call the police to remove disruptive observers from partisan polls.

“Under cover of darkness, Texas House just passed one of the worst anti-voting laws in the county,” said Sarah Labowitz, director of politics and advocacy for the ACLU of Texas after Legislators voted in favor of the bill early that morning advance hours Friday. “SB7 will target color voices, voters with disabilities and the officials who run our elections.”

A separate measure previously approved by the Texas Senate is more expansive. This would allow election observers to videotape people receiving voting assistance, and prohibit going through polls and other measures that were applied in urban areas in 2020 that made voting easier in the pandemic.

These provisions could still be included in the final law.

State action

In Florida, DeSantis said the new law would “increase transparency and make our elections safer.” Critics, including NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson, called it a “terrible reminder” of the “fragility” of democracy.

The law brings extensive changes to Florida’s electoral rules, such as: B. the imposition of new identification requirements in order to request voting slips by e-mail or to change an address. It also limits the location and opening times of ballot boxes and requires poll workers to monitor the ballot boxes. Election officers face a $ 25,000 fine for failing to do so.

Texas and Florida – both populous and diverse states – are just the latest Republican-led states to push their electoral restrictions.

Georgia and Iowa have already passed sweeping voting restrictions. Montana tightened voter ID requirements and ended voter registration on the same day. In the battlefield state of Michigan, too, the laws to tighten voting rules are advancing.

And this week, the Republican majority in Kansas legislature overruled Democratic Governor Laura Kelly’s vetoes over controversial electoral laws. As a result, it is now a crime for someone in Kansas to collect and return more than 10 ballots – which opponents say will hinder efforts by churches and other organizations to help the elderly and disabled people vote.

In the meantime, the legislation that Republicans put in place on Thursday at the Ohio House would significantly revise the electoral laws there. Among other things, the GOP package co-authored by the Republican MP Bill Seitz would tighten the requirements for the voter ID, eliminate a day of early voting and limit the drop box locations to local election offices.

When asked about the moves in Texas and Florida, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday, “The President’s view – the fact is, these laws make voting difficult. This is not a good thing.”

She said Biden would leave it to the Department of Justice and Attorney General Merrick Garland to make decisions about whether to intervene in states that are implementing restrictive voting measures.

Arizona “Audit”

Arizona – a state that Biden narrowly won last November – is currently running a controversial election test called for by Republican state senators for 2020 ballots cast in Maricopa County. Two previous examinations by electoral officials in the county did not reveal any evidence of widespread electoral fraud. The state’s results have long been confirmed. This week, the head of the Department of Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Justice wrote to the President of the Arizona Senate suggesting that a private contractor’s recount of roughly 2.1 million ballot papers could violate required federal law for state and local officials to have to 22 Keep ballot papers and ballot papers for months.

Justice Department official Pamela Karlan also warned that Florida recount company’s Cyber ​​Ninjas plan to knock on voters’ doors to confirm that their addresses could violate federal laws prohibiting voter intimidation .

The Senate Republicans in Arizona are showing no signs of withdrawing. In a letter released Friday, Arizona Senate President Karen Fann said the Justice Department’s concerns were “misplaced” and that a plan to visit voters had been put on hold.

Another state legislature, Republican Senator Wendy Rogers, tweeted this week, “Department of Justice – You need to stay on your lane. Don’t touch Arizona ballots or machines unless you plan to spend time in an Arizona prison.”

Trump has fired the recount efforts.

On Thursday, Rep. Elise Stefanik, a New York Republican and vocal Trump ally, said she “fully” supported the privately held Arizona exam. Stefanik is the leading candidate to replace Rep. Liz Cheney in the Republican leadership of the US House of Representatives after Cheney publicly denied Trump’s election lies.

“When you speak to a voter in this country, certainly at any Republican event, your focus is on electoral security and electoral integrity,” Stefanik said during an appearance on Steve Bannon’s show earlier this week.

“It is important to stand up for these constitutional questions and these questions need to be answered before we head into mid-2022 so that the American people have confidence in our electoral system,” she added.

CNN’s Dianne Gallagher, Stephanie Becker, Maegan Vazquez and Wes Breur contributed to this story.