After hours of fraught debate in the Texas House of Representatives which concluded just after 3 a.m. Friday, Republicans advanced an omnibus bill to tighten voting restrictions.
The House took up its version of Senate Bill 7, which Elections Committee Chairman Briscoe Cain rushed through his committee late last week. The Texas bill would embolden partisan poll watchers, prohibit election officials from mailing out absentee ballot applications and impose strict punishments for those who provide assistance outside the lines of what is permissible. The two chambers must now agree on a finalized version before the legislation can go to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk. The governor has already indicated his support for voting reform bills.
Democrats stalled the bill for hours by rigorously questioning the bill’s sponsor about the need to address election security in a state that has found very few instances of fraud. They accused Republicans of supporting legislation they say is meant to suppress votes instead of uphold election integrity.
“If it’s not broken, what are we trying to fix?” Rep. Jessica González (D) asked Rep. Briscoe Cain (R) on the House floor Thursday.
By early Friday morning, the two parties reached agreement on amendments that watered down pieces of the bill that drew the ire of voting rights advocates. It was advanced in a party-line 81-to-64 vote.
The bill adds Texas to the growing number of GOP-controlled states that have moved to impose new obstacles to voting since the 2020 presidential election, including Georgia, Montana, and Iowa. The Texas vote came hours after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed a bill that erected new hurdles to voting by mail and added new restrictions on ballot drop boxes.