After a Panhandle-sized helping of political theatrics that spanned several months, an election integrity bill that Texas Democrats hoped to stall by running away has passed the state House.
Thursday’s 79-37 vote to pass Senate Bill 1 came a week after enough Democrats had returned to the chamber that the House could once again conduct business, according to The Texas Tribune.
When the bill was first considered at the end of the regular legislative session in May, House Democrats walked out en masse. That meant there were not enough members left in the chamber to conduct business.
Republican Gov. Greg Abbott called a special session for July, prompting the Democrats to flee to Washington, D.C., where they were out of reach of state efforts to compel them to do their jobs.
Abbott then called another special session, the Legislature even authorizing the civil arrest of the Democrats. As August drifted on, the lawmakers drifted back to Texas and finally back to work.
The election integrity bill needs to be passed once more by the House, which has made some changes to the bill since the Senate approved it. If the Senate passes the bill again, it will go to Abbott to be signed into law.
Democrats have claimed that the bill will make it harder for people who traditionally support them to vote; Republicans say it is a response to the potential of election fraud.
“The point that I make to you today is that Texas has consistently reviewed its election law policy over time, making changes and updates as needed,” Republican state Rep. Andrew Murr said. “SB 1 continues this process.”
The process was not without contention.
Democrats bristled when House Speaker Dade Phelan requested that they not use the word “racism” when arguing against the bill.
“I know people bristle at certain terms that are used so I’ll just say [the Legislature has] been intentionally discriminatory,” Democratic state Rep. Rafael Anchía said.
Democratic state Rep. Gina Hinojosa chimed in, saying, “Intentional discrimination against people of a certain race — is that racism?”
Phelan then asked if Democrats were capable of leaving personal invective aside.
“We can talk about racial impacts of this legislation without accusing members of this body of being racist,” Phelan said.
Victory for Texas! We passed Election Integrity on 2nd reading. I spoke about the bill in detail to make clear that Democrats have been lying about the bill during their taxpayer funded stunt to DC. The bill makes it easy to vote and hard to cheat. #txlege pic.twitter.com/RE4vF4dnRP
— Matt Shaheen (@MattShaheen) August 27, 2021
Murr noted that the final bill “contains language offered by both Republicans and Democrats, both senators and representatives during that process. … It demonstrates that all viewpoints have been and are being considered regardless of party affiliation in an effort to draft sound and thoughtful policy.”
One amendment requires the Texas secretary of state to conduct monthly citizenship tests of voter rolls, adds a form for anyone who drives seven or more voters to the polls and mandates video surveillance of voting sites in counties with at least 100,000 people, according to CBS News.
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