As a number of states across the country move to strengthen election security through legislation, the Republican-controlled Senate in Texas on Sunday passed a significant voting integrity bill that detractors on the left believe has a disparate impact on minority communities and the poor, a move that set the stage for a showdown in the state House, as The Hill reports.
The measure cleared the Senate in a party line vote in the wee hours after a lengthy period of debate and was slated to move on to the state House of Representatives where Republicans enjoy an 83-67 majority, as The Hill reported. GOP Gov. Greg Abbott has long been expected to sign the legislation, should it achieve passage in the lower chamber.
The language of the bill seeks to tighten voting regulations in Texas by putting an end to drive-thru voting and 24-hour voting, providing for felony sanctions against officials who give mail-in ballot applications to citizens who have not requested them, and allowing courts to reverse election outcomes if illegally cast ballots are equal or greater in number to the number of votes needed to change the result.
Also controversial to many Democrats is the fact that the bill would give poll watchers enhanced powers by affording them greater access to polling sites and would provide for criminal sanctions against election workers who try to inhibit their movement, as Fox News noted.
High-profile Democrats including President Joe Biden have blasted the bill, with the commander in chief claiming that it’s provisions are “part of an assault on democracy that we’ve seen far too often this year – and often disproportionately targeting Black and Brown Americans,” adding, “It’s wrong an un-American. In the 21st century, we should be making it easier, not harder, for every eligible voter to vote,” according to CBS News.
Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) also expressed his displeasure on Sunday, saying, “The Texas law is shameful and Republicans clearly, in Texas and throughout the country, want to make it harder to vote and easier to steal and election. That’s the only way I can interpret the voter suppression epidemic that we see working its way from one state, Georgia, to Arizona to Texas and all across the country.”
Despite securing passage in the state Senat, in an eleventh-hour surprise, Texas House Democrats launched a walkout late Sunday night, departing the legislative floor in order to halt ultimate passage of the bill. As a result, Republicans had no choice but to adjourn the session without holding a vote on the proposal, as the Washington Post reported.
Democrat State Rep. Jessica Gonzales explained, “We decided to come together and say we weren’t going to take it,” and declared her frustration over the way in which the bill was formulated, adding, “We needed to be part of the process. Cutting us out completely – I mean, this law will affect every single voter in Texas.”
Though Democrats succeeded in temporarily thwarting passage of the bill by engaging in a theatrical tantrum, Gov. Abbot tweeted late Sunday evening that “Election Integrity & Bail Reform were emergency items for this legislative session. They STILL must pass. They will be added to the special session agenda,” and he instructed lawmakers to have a deal worked out and ready to go upon arrival at that session, leaving no doubt about where he stands on the matter.