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Local News

Texas elections bill advances to 3rd reading

todayAugust 27, 2021

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A bill that will change voting laws in Texas advanced to a third reading in the House after an entire day of debate late Thursday. The House moved the nearly 50-page bill on with a vote of 79-37, mostly a party-line vote.

The bill’s third reading and final vote are expected to happen Friday. If it passes, it will then go back to the Senate with new amendments, and then potentially to Governor Abbott’s desk.

The bill is one of the governor’s priorities in the session. Republicans who supported the bill spent 12 hours defending it, saying it is meant to provide election integrity and make it harder for people to cheat in future elections.

In what is now the GOP’s third try at passing the bill since May, the atmosphere was tense Thursday as Republicans defended the changes as safeguards while Democrats continued to say it would disproportionately impact people of color. Republican House speaker Dade Phelan interrupted the discussions at one point to tell House members not to accuse each other of racism – or even say the word.

Texas is now set to become the last large GOP state to pass tighter voting laws driven by former President Trump’s claims that the 2020 election was stolen.

In seeking to stop the bill, more than 50 Democrats had gone to Washington D.C., a destination they chose to press Congress on voting rights legislation. On Wednesday, the U.S. House passed federal voting rights legislation that congressional Democrats say is progress in their quest to fight back against voting restrictions advanced in states such as Texas. Currently, Democrats do not have the votes to overcome opposition from Senate Republicans.

The bill now goes back to the state Senate, which already signed off on a similar version this month following a 15-hour filibuster by Democrat Carol Alvarado. Abbott, who is up for reelection in 2022, has demanded the bill and has vetoed paychecks for 2,100 legislative staffers after Democrats first blocked the legislation by walking out of the state Capitol in May.

Abbott then had to call a special session to take up voting restrictions. Democrats again walked out in July, with dozens boarding private jets to the nation’s capital.

Without a quorum of 100 legislators necessary to do business, the 30-day special session wound down. Abbott called another one, and this time Republicans enlisted the help of law enforcement.

The current bill closely resembles the original one, which prohibits drive-thru voting and threatens local elections officials with felony charges if they send mail-in voting applications to voters who don’t request one. It also states that poll watchers cannot be denied “free movement” and makes it a crime for elections judges to obstruct them.

Concerns raised by Democrats about voter intimidation and disruption were met with Republicans pointing to oaths and training that poll watchers were required to take. The bill must go to Abbott’s desk by Labor Day Weekend, which is when the current special legislative session ends.


Written by: Michelle Layton

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