The bill would limit postal ballots, early voting and access to cars, and add to the national debate over voting rights.
Texas joined other Republican-controlled states on Friday in pushing forward a series of new voting restrictions, defying opposition from many state-owned businesses and adding to a fierce national debate over voting rights .
The Austin State House of Representatives voted largely in favor of the party to approve the legislation on Friday after hours of debate, Reuters news agency reported.
Members of the Texas House and State Senate, which passed its own bill imposing voting limits last month, will now work to reconcile the two bills before sending a finalized version to the governor. Republican Greg Abbott.
Abbott has indicated he will sign the bill and tweeted about his support on Friday.
This bill will help ensure that we have confidence in the outcome of our elections.
One step closer to my office and make it TX law.
– Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) May 7, 2021
Texas Democrats have virtually no way of stopping the bill in the Republican-controlled legislature and they have warned of future legal fights, the Associated Press reported.
“You have your vote, you have your majority. But guess what? I look forward to seeing you in Federal Court, ”said Democratic State Representative Trey Martinez Fischer before a final procedural vote Friday afternoon that sent the bill back to the Senate. He added that “history is on our side”.
Other states, Georgia, Florida and Iowa have adopted Republican-backed voting restrictions after former Republican President Donald Trump falsely claimed his loss to Democrat Joe Biden in the 2020 election was the result of massive voter fraud.
Republicans in Ohio and Michigan are also pushing to revise various electoral procedures.
The Texas House bill gives more access to supporter poll observers and prohibits election officials from sending unsolicited mail-in ballot requests to voters, among other restrictions.
The Senate bill includes limits on early voting and would ban 24-hour polling stations and drive-thru voting, two changes that Harris County – home to Houston, the fourth largest city in the United States – did last year during the coronavirus pandemic.
Republican sponsors of the bills have said they aim to prevent voter fraud while strengthening electoral integrity and public confidence in the ballot.
“This bill is about protecting voters,” Republican Rep. Briscoe Cain said during the House debate.
Democrats and civil rights groups counter that there is no evidence of widespread ballot tampering and argue that such legislation disproportionately burdens or discourages voters of color, as well as the elderly and disabled.
Voting rights advocates said Texas has already put in place some of the highest barriers to voting of any state.
“In short, this bill is nothing more than voter suppression,” Jasmine Crockett, lawyer and first-term Democrat, told the House.
On May 5, dozens of companies – including American Airlines Group Inc, Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co and Microsoft Corp – urged lawmakers to reject any proposed legislation that would restrict access to ballots.
Postal voting and early voting in general increased in the 2020 election as voters seek to avoid queues at the polls amid the pandemic.
The Texas vote came a day after Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis signed a new law which makes it more difficult for voters to vote by mail or use the ballot boxes.
In March, Georgia passed a Republican-backed law that called for removing new restrictions, provoking backlash from major U.S. corporations, and prompting Major League Baseball to move its All-Star Game from Atlanta in protest. Delta Airlines struck down the new Georgian law as “unacceptable”.
More than three months after Biden was sworn in, Trump has continued to claim that the election was stolen. The courts have dismissed these claims in more than 60 lawsuits challenging the results.
“We are seeing the strong effect of President Trump’s big lie. We see the Republican Party doing everything it can to support him and his lies, ”said Sylvia Albert, director of votes and elections for Common Cause, which advocates expanded voter access.