Texas Legislature Sends GOP Voting Bill to Governor | New policies
By PAUL J. WEBER and ACACIA CORONADO, Associated Press
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) – The GOP-controlled Texas Legislature on Tuesday passed a major overhaul of the state’s election laws, tightening already strict voting rules and inflicting a crushing defeat on Democrats after a fight several months for the voting rights.
Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has said he will sign the bill, the latest in a nationwide GOP campaign to add new barriers to voting in the name of security. The effort, which has led to further restrictions in Georgia, Florida, Arizona and elsewhere, was spurred in part by false claims by former President Donald Trump about a stolen election.
Texas Democrats fought the legislation for months, arguing the bill was designed to make it harder for young people, racial and ethnic minorities, and people with disabilities – all Democratic-leaning voters – to vote. The bill specifically targets Democratic strongholds, including Harris County in Houston, further tightening the rules in a state already considered one of the most difficult places to vote.
The legislation sparked a rocky summer in Texas of walkouts from Democrats, Republicans threatening them with arrest, Abbott vetoing the paychecks of thousands of core staff when the bill failed him earlier, and accusations of racism and voter suppression.
âThe emotional reasons for not voting for this is that it creates hardship for people because of their skin color and ethnicity, and I am one of that class of people,â Democrat Garnet Coleman said. , a state official whose return to the Capitol earlier this month helped end a 38-day standoff.
Even the final vote did not escape a final showdown after Senate Republicans at the last minute scuttled one of the few areas of bipartisan agreement: efforts to protect felony voters from prosecution. if they didn’t realize they weren’t eligible to cast a ballot. He had been included following the arrests of two Texas voters, both black, which escalated criticism as part of a broader fight against voting restrictions which opponents say have a disproportionate impact on voters. people of color.
Texas will limit voting hours and allow observers who support polls under the nearly 75-page bill, known as Senate Bill 1. the House and Senate, stood firm in the face of months of protest and an escalation of the scam.
âSenate Bill 1 will strengthen confidence in the outcome of our elections by facilitating voting and fraud. I look forward to signing Senate Bill 1, Ensuring the Integrity of the Texas Elections, âAbbott said in a statement minutes after the bill was passed.
This acrimony is unlikely to end with Abbott’s signing.
The Texas Capitol is set to immediately move on to another heavy fight over redesigned voting cards that could lock in Republican electoral advantages for the next decade. Texas has added more than 4 million new residents since 2010, more than any other state, with people of color representing more than nine in ten new residents.
Democrats have slammed the voting bill as an attempt to suppress participation from an ascending and more diverse electorate as Republicans, accustomed to racking up electoral victories in America’s largest red state, begin to lose ground.
Texas Republicans defended the bill in the same terms the GOP has used in more than a dozen other states that have also passed restrictive voting laws this year: calling for the changes to practical safeguards, while denying that they are motivated by Trump’s baseless claims that he lost his re-election because of widespread electoral fraud.
When the bill got final approval Tuesday in the Senate, Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick held the gavel on the dais. Days after last year’s election, Patrick offered a $ 1 million reward to support Trump’s baseless allegations of polling irregularities.
One provision in the bill was intended to make it clear that a person had to know that they were voting illegally in order to face prosecution. But despite gaining House buy-in, it was rejected by Senate negotiators as the bill was being finalized over the weekend.
Texas law prohibits those on parole, probation, or supervised release from voting. But Republican and Democratic lawmakers have expressed unease over the case of Crystal Mason, who was sentenced to five years in prison in 2018 for tentatively voting in the 2016 presidential election while on probation. She said she was unaware she was not eligible to vote at the time.
Her provisional vote ended up not counting and her case is now on appeal.
Once the bill was approved, the House approved a resolution that “a person should not be criminally imprisoned for having committed an innocent error”. He passed 119-4.
âYou shouldn’t be jailed for five years under these circumstances,â said Republican State Representative Dustin Burrows.
Texas already has some of the toughest election laws in the country, and many of the most contested changes now heading to Abbott are the expanded voting option bans put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic in the most large county of Texas, which includes Houston and is a primary source of Democratic votes.
Last year, Harris County offered 24-hour polling stations and drive-thru voting, and attempted to send mail-in ballot requests to 2 million registered voters. All of this would now be banned with Abbott’s signature, and election officials who send postal ballot requests to voters who do not request them could face criminal penalties.
Republicans said the tightened rules reigned over powers local election officials never had in the first place, while accusing critics of exaggerating the impacts. They also pointed out that polling stations for two weeks of early voting across Texas must now be open for at least an additional hour, and more counties must have polling stations open for at least 12 hours.
Mason’s illegal voting arrest is not the only one attracting criticism from Democrats and voting rights groups. In July, Hervis Rogers was arrested on charges of illegal voting because he voted while still on parole after standing in line for more than six hours in the 2020 presidential primary.
The cases drew national attention and angered critics who saw both as overzealous attempts by Republicans to be tough on rare instances of improper voting. The Brennan Center for Justice in 2017 ranked the risk of electoral fraud between 0.00004% and 0.0009%, based on studies of past elections.
Acacia Coronado is a member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative body. Report for America is a national, nonprofit service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to cover undercover issues.
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