By Jack Phillips
The Texas state Senate passed a sweeping election overhaul bill on May 30 that has been criticized by high-profile Democrats over provisions that they say expands restrictions and penalties.
The legislation was approved largely along party lines after an overnight debate stretched into the morning of May 30, according to local media. The House had a deadline of midnight on May 30 to approve the proposal.
The measure would grant more power to poll watchers by giving them more access inside polling areas, while creating new penalties against election officials who restrict poll watchers’ movements. The proposal would also allow a judge to void the outcome of an election if the number of fraudulent votes could change the result.
Officials who send mail-in ballots to people who didn’t request them may also face criminal penalties, according to the bill.
Previously, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, signaled that he supports such election measures.
According to a tweet from the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, at least 16 new or enhanced crimes related to elections were included in the bill.
State Sen. Bryan Hughes, a Republican, said that the measure would keep Texas’s elections fair and honest.
“We want elections to be secure and accessible,” said Hughes, who authored the bill, according to the Dallas Morning News.
During the Senate session, Hughes said his bill has “common sense” mandates against fraud, the Texas Tribune reported.
“The provisions of this bill apply equally across the board,” Hughes said in response to allegations from Democrats that the bill would restrict minority voters.
Over the weekend, President Joe Biden weighed in on the bill, alleging in a statement that it “attacks the sacred right to vote.”
“It’s part of an assault on democracy that we’ve seen far too often this year—and often disproportionately targeting black and brown Americans,” Biden said.
The president wasn’t the only high-profile Democrat to weigh in on the Texas bill.
“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 an election,” Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), a member of House Democrats’ leadership, told CBS News on May 30. “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.”
Marc Elias, a lawyer who has filed a number of election-related lawsuits on behalf of Democrats, signaled that he will file a lawsuit in the coming days.
“States to watch for NEW voting rights litigation (in order of likelihood) 1. Texas,” he wrote on Twitter on May 30.
Elias also filed a lawsuit to challenge an election integrity bill that was signed into law in Florida several weeks ago.
In addition to Florida and Texas, a number of Republican-led states have pushed for or have passed laws meant to add new safeguards to elections, drawing considerable condemnation from Democrats, who have claimed Republicans are trying to rig voting in their favor.
In mid-May, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, signed a bill that updated the eligibility requirements to remain on the state’s early voting list in a bid to make elections more secure.
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