Texas House Passes Election Overhaul

With Democrats back, voting restrictions go to Senate for final OK
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 27, 2021 4:37 PM CDT
Texas Election Overhaul Nears Enactment
Republican Rep. Andrew Murr, at lectern, answers questions during debate Thursday in the Texas House.   (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

With the Texas House back in business, Republicans pushed a broad election overhaul through on Friday and sent it to the Senate. The legislation already cleared the Senate but had to go back to reconcile minor differences between the two versions. The package then will go to Gov. Greg Abbott, who supports it, for his signature making it law. The vote was 80-41, the Hill reports. House Democrats opposed to the measure had fled to Washington to prevent the chamber from having a quorum and to seek federal legislation to trump the Texas bill, but they started returning last week. Democrats contend the Texas measure will raise obstacles to marginalized voters trying to participate in elections, per CNN.

"This is your bill. Your idea. And you would be responsible for the consequences," Democratic Rep. Senfronia told Republicans. Senfronia, who said she had to pay a poll tax to vote in Texas before 1966, said they'll pay politically for the bill, and it won't be years, she assured them. "It'll be sooner than you think." Like Democrats in Florida, Georgia, and elsewhere who have been unable to block new voting restrictions, the ones in Texas can only turn to Congress for national protections. Rep. Chris Turner, Democratic Caucus chair, said the Democrats' trip "led to the US House passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act sooner than anticipated. Now, the US Senate must do the same to protect Texas voters from continued Republican attacks on their freedom to vote."

The Texas legislation would reverse changes that local officials made last year, such as allowing 24-hour voting and drive-through polling places; give new authority to partisan poll watchers; and limit mailing absentee ballot applications, per the New York Times. Democrats mostly were unable to pass amendments limiting the bill's effects during debate Thursday and Friday, as they argued it will be harmful to Black and Latino voters. "We knew we wouldn't be able to hold off this bill forever," Turner said. As the debate began, Speaker Dade Phelan told House members he "would appreciate members not using the word racism this afternoon." (More Texas stories.)

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