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Texas Senate Passes GOP-Led Bill That Restricts Voting

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Topline

The Texas Senate narrowly passed legislation Thursday morning that would impose a range of voting restrictions after the Republican-led state saw record voter turnout in November, the latest in a string of high-profile bills restricting voting that GOP lawmakers are now passing across the country.

Key Facts

SB 7 passed early Thursday morning in a 18-13 party line vote.

The bill would impose such restrictions as prohibiting drive-through voting—used by more than 127,000 Houston-area voters in November—limiting extended early voting hours and stopping election officials from proactively sending voters absentee ballot applications.

The bill also expands partisan poll watchers’ powers—which critics say could intimidate voters of color—after the Trump campaign and Republicans repeatedly complained in November that observers were not given adequate access to the voting and vote counting process.

It also imposes specific rules for how polling places can be distributed in counties with at least one million voters, which the Texas Tribune notes largely applies to areas that have elected Democrats.

Republican legislators said the legislation would help ensure “election integrity,” but critics fear it would negatively target voters of color and those in larger, predominantly-Democratic metro areas.

Chief Critic

“As I see this bill, it’s a pure case of suppression. There are some things in here that are really offensive,” Democratic state Sen. Borris Miles said during the legislative session on the bill. “This hurts to the core.”

Crucial Quote

“This bill is designed to address areas throughout the process where bad actors can take advantage, so Texans can feel confident that their elections are fair, honest and open,” Republican state Sen. Bryan Hughes said, claiming the legislation “standardizes and clarifies” the state’s voting provisions. 

What To Watch For

The Texas House is expected to consider and vote on the bill potentially as soon as Thursday, according to the Associated Press.

Big Number

66%. That’s the percentage of registered voters in Texas that turned out in the November election, according to the Texas Tribune, which the outlet notes is the state’s highest turnout since 1992 and a 6.6% increase over the turnout in 2016. Though Texas narrowly elected former President Donald Trump over President Joe Biden with 52% of the vote, the state has trended more Democratic in recent years as more young voters and voters of color have gone to the polls.

Key Background

Texas’ voting legislation is part of a broader effort nationwide by state Republicans to pass restrictive voting and “election integrity” measures in the wake of Biden’s presidential win, which members of the GOP have attributed to voter fraud despite a lack of evidence. A Brennan Center for Justice analysis found that as of March 24, more than 361 such bills had been introduced so far in 47 states. Iowa and Georgia have so far signed new voting rules into law, with Georgia’s legislation coming under particular scrutiny after the battleground state narrowly broke for Democrats in both the presidential and Senate runoff elections. That bill is now being targeted by civil rights groups through multiple lawsuits, and activists have targeted and threatened to boycott major companies based in the state for not opposing the legislation. Democrats in Congress are pushing back against the wave of legislation through H.R. 1, a voting bill that would expand access and undo many provisions of the state-based legislation. That bill has passed the House but faces uncertain odds in the Senate, where Democrats have a narrower majority.

Further Reading

Texas Senate advances bill limiting how and when voters can cast ballots, receive mail-in voting applications (Texas Tribune)

New GOP-led voting restrictions move forward in Texas (Associated Press)

Civil Rights Groups Including ACLU, NAACP Sue Georgia Over Voting Law (Forbes)

Atlanta’s Coca-Cola And Delta Join Companies Opposing New Georgia Voting Law (Forbes)

Civil Rights Group Sues To Block New Iowa Voting Restrictions (Forbes)

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