Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed a new election reform bill into law Tuesday following months of controversy — which included Texas Democrats fleeing to Washington, D.C., to avoid voting on the bill — and a lawsuit to stop the bill is already in progress.
“Senate Bill 1 will solidify trust and confidence in the outcome of our elections by making it easier to vote and harder to cheat. I look forward to signing Senate Bill 1 into law, ensuring election integrity in Texas,” Abbott said in a statement, according to Fox News.
I’m signing Texas’ election integrity bill into LAW today in Tyler, Texas.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) September 7, 2021
“Senate Bill 1 creates uniform statewide voting hours, maintains and expands voting access for registered voters that need assistance, prohibits drive-through voting, and enhances transparency by authorizing poll watchers to observe more aspects of the election process,” a news release from Abbott’s office said.
“The bill also bans the distribution of unsolicited applications for mail-in ballots and gives voters with a defective mail-in ballot the opportunity to correct the defect.”
Inbox: “Governor Greg Abbott will sign Senate Bill 1, also known as the election integrity bill, into law on Tuesday, September 7 in Tyler.” pic.twitter.com/et5GNnZozP
— Rob Romano (@2Aupdates) September 6, 2021
“SB 1 is set to take effect three months after the special legislative session, in time for the 2022 primary elections. But it could still be caught up in the federal courts. Abbott’s signature was preempted by two federal lawsuits,” The Texas Tribune reported.
According to The Hill, prominent Democratic election lawyer Marc Elias has already announced plans to sue Texas to block the bill before it can be enacted.
The lawsuit will use two sections of the Voting Rights Act as well as the First and 14th Amendments to challenge the law, the outlet noted. Elias said his team was suing on behalf of the state’s biggest teachers union, two Hispanic advocacy groups and a retiree organization.
“Year after year, Texas has one of the lowest voter turnout rates in the country, yet Republicans in the state remain intent on limiting access to the ballot box, particularly for voters of color,” Elias told The Hill in an email.
“After Texas Democrats blocked the passage of past iterations fo the bill in the regular legislative session and the first special session, Republicans finally achieved their goal of enacting a law, Senate Bill 1, that limits almost every method of voting in the state.”
Although the Texas state Senate approved the bill the Saturday before the regular session ended in May, the House was deliberating the next day as the legislative clock ran down. The legislative session in Texas — an eventful one by any measure — ended at midnight.
Democrats walked out at about 10:45 p.m. local time on May 30, meaning the House did not have the 100 members necessary for a quorum. It then had to adjourn, according to CNN.
Sawyer Hackett, executive director of former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro’s People First Future group, tweeted a photo of the chamber in a post that referred to the legislation as a “voter suppression bill.”
WOW. Dozens of Texas House Democrats walked out of the chamber to break quorum on SB7, Republicans’ voter suppression bill.
Only an hour and change until the session expires. pic.twitter.com/V8ojDV4EBj
— Sawyer Hackett (@SawyerHackett) May 31, 2021
Republican House Speaker Dade Phelan said the decision by Democrats to abruptly leave the chamber killed several bills that Democrats had joined Republicans in supporting.
“Texans shouldn’t have to pay the consequences of these members’ actions — or in this case, inaction,” he said, adding that the majority of Texans support “making our elections stronger and more secure,” according to The Washington Post.
Nearly 60 Texas Democrats later left the state for Washington, D.C., to avoid voting on the bill. Abbott launched special sessions until Democrats returned and the bill was passed.
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