Republicans in Texas forged a compromise Saturday on a new voting bill that would limit mail-in ballots and early voting options, making Texas the latest state to move to enact voting restrictions in response to unproven voter fraud claims in last year’s election — a trend that President Joe Biden called an “assault on democracy” Saturday.
The bill’s final text — released Saturday by a state legislative committee — would bar counties from offering drive-through early voting or keeping precincts open overnight, two voting options that were popular in Houston’s Harris County last year.
The bill also bans election officials from mailing out absentee ballot applications to voters who didn’t request them, requires absentee voters to provide a driver’s license or other ID number, expands the process for scrutinizing mail-in voters’ signatures, and gives partisan poll-watchers more access to precincts and counting sites.
Lawmakers who helped craft the compromise bill said in a statement Friday it “protects the Texas ballot box by making it easy to vote and hard to cheat.”
Critics argue the proposals are a form of voter suppression designed to make casting a ballot harder, especially for voters in predominantly nonwhite and low-income areas and disabled Texans who rely on mail-in voting.
“This bill is the product of years of hard work and deliberation by past and current legislators. We are honored to see these efforts result in a bill that provides security and accessibility,” Sen. Bryan Hughes and Rep. Briscoe Cain, two Republicans who negotiated the final bill, wrote in a statement Friday night.
“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 wrote Saturday. “In the 21st century, we should be making it easier, not harder, for every eligible voter to vote.”
The Republican-controlled state Senate and House passed separate versions of this bill in April and May, and the compromise bill released Saturday — which is slightly different from earlier drafts — still needs to pass both houses again. If it passes, it heads to the desk of Gov. Greg Abbott (R), who has backed new voting restrictions in the past.
After former President Donald Trump falsely insisted he won last year’s presidential election, Republican lawmakers in several swing states began pushing for stringent new voting laws. Many proposed changes zero in on mail-in voting, which Trump claimed — without evidence — was dogged by rampant fraud. Georgia and Florida have already passed voting restrictions this year, and several other states are mulling similar reforms.
Some Texas-based employers — including large companies like Dell and American Airlines — have lashed out against proposals to restrict voting. Supporters of tighter voting laws seemed unfazed by this pressure: Hughes and Cain wrote Friday that “the Texas Legislature has not bent to headlines or corporate virtue signaling.”
Texas House Passes Restrictive Voting Bill—Here Are The Next States Likely To Impose New Limits (Forbes)