Republicans in the Texas Senate on Thursday advanced a slate of voter integrity measures in a bill that would tighten election security in America’s biggest red state.
The bill would limit early voting hours, end drive-thru voting, and prohibit local officials from sending absentee ballot applications to individuals without them first requesting one.
The bill passed 18-13 along party lines.
The legislation, which advanced after seven hours of debate, also grants more power to partisan poll watchers. It allows for early voting between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.
Republican state Sen. Bryan Hughes, one of the bill’s lead sponsors, said it “standardizes and clarifies” election rules so that “every Texan has a fair and equal opportunity to vote, regardless of where in the state they live.”
“Overall, this bill is designed to address areas throughout the process where bad actors can take advantage, so Texans can feel confident that their elections are fair, honest and open,” he added.
Democrats, however, argued that the bill sought to make it harder for minorities to vote.
Democratic state Sen. Carol Alvarado noted that black and Hispanic voters accounted for more than half of the 127,000 votes cast at drive-thru sites around Houston during early voting last year.
Blacks and Hispanics made up 67 percent of Houston’s population in 2019, according to an estimate by the U.S. Census Bureau.
“As I see this bill, it’s a case of pure suppression,” Democratic state Sen. Borris Miles said. “There are some things in here that are really offensive. This hurts to the core.”
Republicans rejected accusations that the bill was designed to suppress voter turnout.
“None of what we’ve discussed is voter suppression. And none of what we’ve discussed is Jim Crow,” Republican state Sen. Paul Bettencourt said.
The Republican push for election integrity has led to the introduction of voting bills across the country, including in Georgia and Florida.
The GOP bills stand in sharp contrast to HR 1, an overhaul of the election system passed by House Democrats this month. It would almost completely federalize the election process, legalize ballot harvesting and expand mail-in voting.
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