(Trends Wide) — Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill Tuesday that prohibits 24-hour early voting and car voting, imposes new hurdles on mail-in ballots and empowers partisan election watchers.
The restrictive voting measure adds Texas to the list of Republican-controlled states that have seized on former President Donald Trump’s lies about widespread voter fraud and restricted access to the polls this year. Florida, Georgia, and other states have already enacted new voting laws.
Electoral reform in Texas comes as Republicans seek to hold onto power in a rapidly changing state, where people of color make up virtually all of the population growth, and that growth is concentrated in large cities that tend to vote for the United States. Democrats.
Democrats had fled the Capitol in Austin for weeks in an effort to block the bill, first preventing passage of a similar measure at the end of the state’s regular legislative session in May, then forcing Abbott to convene two special sessions to address what the governor called “electoral integrity.”
“It makes it easier and easier than ever for someone to vote. However, it also ensures that it is more difficult than ever for people to cheat at the polls,” Abbott said at an event where he signed the bill. law.
What’s in the controversial Texas bill?
Opponents of Senate Bill 1 said its provisions will disproportionately restrict voting access for marginalized voters, particularly people of color and people with disabilities.
The new law targets Harris County, home to Houston, which last year offered in-car voting and 24-hour early voting. The bill restricts the hours that counties can offer early voting between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. AND prohibits tactics like those used by Harris County in 2020, when a garage at the Toyota Center, the home of the Houstonians Rockets of the NBA, was among the places used as a place for residents to vote from their vehicles.
The bill also prevents counties from sending unsolicited vote-by-mail requests, even to those who are over 65 and therefore automatically qualify to vote by mail. It also sets new rules on voting by mail, increases protections for partisan election watchers, and sets new limits for those who help voters, including those with disabilities, cast their votes.
Already Marc Elias, a prominent Democratic election attorney, has said that the Texas law will be challenged in court.
“SB 1 (law) is a terrible and undemocratic effort by Texas Republicans to build barriers to voting for people who they believe will not support them,” said Eric Holder, the US attorney general under then-President Barack Obama, it’s a statement. “What makes this bill and others like it that Republicans are pushing across the country even more anti-American is that Republicans are using the ‘Big Lie’ about the 2020 election as a pretext to support them. The reality is that These bills have nothing to do with electoral integrity or security, but are discriminatory measures that make it difficult for everyone to vote. These bills will have a disproportionate impact on communities of color. “
In part because Democrats’ inattention to state-level contests has allowed Republicans to build majorities in legislative houses in many competitive states, Democrats have proven incapable of providing a forceful response this year to the tide of restrictions. to vote in state governments led by the Republican Party.
Democrats hope the law will be reversed
Instead, they expect Congress to act. In Texas, Democratic state House lawmakers left Austin for Washington to urge Congress to pass new voter protections.
However, measures to expand voting rights are stalled on Capitol Hill, and Senate Democrats cannot break the 60-vote obstruction threshold and cannot remove obstructionism due to opposition within the party.
“I was born into segregation,” Democratic State Representative Garnet Coleman said before Tuesday’s House vote to pass the bill. “We believe that we have progressed and, suddenly, a new law appears that takes us back in time.”
Republicans in Texas, meanwhile, said their electoral reforms were aimed at making it easier to vote and make cheating more difficult, a refrain Republican lawmakers have used even though there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in Texas.
“Common sense reforms in this legislation strengthen our confidence in the electoral process, from voter registration to final ballot counting. Texans can cast their votes with confidence knowing they will be accurately counted and reported,” said the Republican state. Sen. Bryan Hughes, author of the provision.