Texas Legislature Sends Election Reform Bill to Governor’s Desk
Texas Legislature Sends Election Reform Bill to Governor’s Desk

By Mimi Nguyen Ly

The Texas Legislature on Tuesday sent a bill to amend the state’s election code to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk, which is expected to be signed into law.

The measure was among a number of voting bills that prompted 52 House Democrats to flee the state in July to deny Republicans the legislative quorum needed to conduct the state’s business.

Three Democrats returned to Texas in late August—enough to achieve a quorum—ending a legislative impasse of 38 days, or more than six weeks.

Lawmakers in the Republican-controlled state House and Senate advanced the bill through both chambers on Tuesday.

Abbott said the measure, Senate Bill 1 (pdf), will protect the integrity of elections in Texas.

“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 following the bill’s passage.

The bill creates a slew of measures, including to implement uniform voting hours across the state and remove 24-hour voting locations. It also prohibits drive-through voting.

The bill will ban any distribution of unsolicited mail-in ballot applications. It also provides voters the opportunity to correct any defective mail-in ballots. There will be new identification requirements for mail-in voting, including a driver’s license or social security number.

Senate Bill 1 will also allow poll watchers to observe more of the election process by giving them more access inside polling areas, and create penalties against election officials who restrict poll watchers’ movements.

Texas Sen. Bryan Hughes, a Republican who authored the bill, rejected criticism that it aimed to suppress votes. He said Texas has more days of early, in-person voting than some Democratic-run states like New York, and his bill would for the first time allow people who make mistakes on mail-in ballots to correct them.

“Anyone who tells you there is no voter fraud in Texas is telling you a very big lie,” Hughes said on the floor of the Senate. “We know it happens. The right to vote is too precious—it cost too much for us to leave it unprotected.”

Texas Rep. Trey Martinez, a Democrat, said he believes the bill was intended “to stop certain people from voting” and vowed to have the measure be “met with fierce resistance in federal courts” once Abbott signs it into law.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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