The bill would restrict mail-in ballots, early voting and drive-in access and add to the national debate on voting rights.
Texas on Friday, along with other Republican-controlled states, pushed ahead with a series of new electoral restrictions, defied opposition from many state corporations, and fueled a heated national debate over voting rights.
After hours of debate, the House of Representatives in Austin voted largely partisan to approve the legislation on Friday, Reuters reported.
Texas House and Senate members who passed their own voting-restriction bill last month will now work to reconcile the two bills before sending a final draft to Republican Governor Greg Abbott.
Abbott announced that he will sign the legislation and tweeted on Friday about his support.
Thanks to @BriscoeCain, @SenBryanHughes, @TeamBettencourt and all the hardworking members of #txlege for passing # SB7.
This bill will help us to have confidence in the outcome of our elections.
One step closer to my desk and the TX law.
– Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) May 7, 2021
The Texas Democrats have virtually no way of stopping the bill in the Republican-controlled legislature and they have warned of impending litigation, The Associated Press reported.
“You have your vote, you have your majority. But guess what? I look forward to seeing you in federal court, ”Democratic State representative Trey Martinez Fischer said ahead of a final Friday afternoon procedural vote that sent the bill back to the Senate. He added that “history is on our side”.
Other states, Georgia, Florida, and Iowa have put Republican-backed election restrictions in place after former Republican President Donald Trump falsely claimed his loss to Democrat Joe Biden in the 2020 election was the result of massive electoral fraud.
Republicans in Ohio and Michigan are also pushing ahead with overhauling various electoral processes.
The Texas House bill gives partisan election observers more access and prevents election officials from sending unsolicited postal ballot applications to voters, among other things.
The Senate bill includes restrictions on early voting and prohibits 24-hour polling stations and thoroughfare. Both changes were made by Harris County – home of Houston, the fourth largest city in the United States – during the coronavirus pandemic last year.
Republican sponsors of the bills said they are designed to prevent electoral fraud while building the integrity of the elections and public confidence in the vote.
“This law is about protecting voters,” said Republican representative Briscoe Cain during the floor of the house debate.
Democrats and civil rights groups counter that there is no evidence of widespread election rigging, arguing that such laws disproportionately burden or discourage color voters and the elderly and disabled.
Republicans in Texas legislature are preparing new laws that Democrats say will make voting harder [File: Adrees Latif/Reuters]Voting advocates said Texas has already created some of the highest obstacles to a state’s voting.
“In short, this bill is nothing more than electoral repression,” said Jasmine Crockett, attorney and first-time Democrat, on the floor of the house.
On May 5, dozens of companies – including American Airlines Group Inc., Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co, and Microsoft Corp. – on legislators to reject legislative proposals that would restrict access to ballot papers.
Postal voting and early voting in general spiked during the 2020 election as voters tried to avoid ballot box queues amid the pandemic.
The Texas vote came the day after Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis signed a new law making it difficult for voters to post ballot papers or use ballot boxes.
In March, Georgia passed Republican-backed law that included new restrictions, creating backlash among major US corporations, and urging Major League Baseball to move its all-star game out of Atlanta in protest. Delta Air Lines has declared the new Georgia law “unacceptable”.
More than three months after Biden was sworn in, Trump has continued to claim the election was stolen. Courts have dismissed these claims in more than 60 lawsuits contesting the results.
“We are seeing the powerful impact of President Trump’s great lie. We see that the Republican Party supports him and his lies all-in, “said Sylvia Albert, election director for Common Cause, who advocates expanded access to voters.