Texas legislature passes elections bill tightening voting restrictions
© WikiMedia (Kumar Appaiah)
Texas legislature passes elections bill tightening voting restrictions

The Texas legislature on Tuesday passed a bill containing a set of new voting restrictions that will tighten the state’s already strict voting rules, which is considered some of the strictest in the nation.

Senate Bill 1, titled Election Integrity Protection Act, explicitly states the legislative intent to “reduce the likelihood of fraud in the conduct of elections, protect the secrecy of the ballot, promote voter access, and ensure that all legally cast ballots are counted.”

The bill would add new ID requirements for those seeking to vote early and/or by mail such as driver’s license, election identification certificate or an ID card issued by the Department of Public Safety. Upon notice from the registrar, the bill would also require submission of a US passport, birth certificate, certificate of naturalization, or other proof of citizenship to confirm eligibility to vote, with monthly reviews being conducted of registered voter lists to check for continued citizenship.

The bill also imposes increased criminal penalties merely for participating in the voting process and subjects voting registrars and counties to increased scrutiny via audits and civil penalties. However, the final bill eliminated a provision from previous versions that targeted voters with prior convictions with criminal penalties. The bill would also limit voting hours to between 6:00 AM and 10:00 PM.

The bill has been the subject of severe controversy since its introduction, with Texas Democrats staging a walkout in July and heading to DC to stall the passage of the bill. Republican lawmakers responded by holding a vote to send law enforcement to chase down the absent members and by attempting to demote absent Democrats from their committee and leadership positions, but this latter move was halted due to concerns over current floor procedural rules.

Governor Greg Abbott has already stated his intent to sign the bill: “Senate Bill 1 will solidify trust and confidence in the outcome of our elections by making it easier to vote and harder to cheat. I look forward to signing Senate Bill 1 into law, ensuring election integrity in Texas.”

Former US Attorney General and Chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, Eric Holder, released a statement of his own condemning the passage of the bill:

SB1 is an appalling, anti-democracy effort by Texas Republicans to construct barriers to voting for people they believe will not support them. What makes this bill and similar ones Republicans are pushing across the country even more un-American is that Republicans are using the “Big Lie” about the 2020 election as a pretext to support them. The reality is that these bills have nothing to do with election integrity or security, but rather are discriminatory measures making it harder for all people to vote. These bills will have a disproportionate impact on communities of color.

The same politicians who voted for SB1 today will be drawing the lines during redistricting in the coming weeks. It’s clear that they are afraid that if everyone is able to vote and participate fully in our democracy, they won’t be able to hold onto power. So they are willing to change, bend or even break the structures of our democracy if that is what it takes to retain power.

Across the country, not just in Texas, Republicans are trying to return us to a pre-1965 America when there was no Voting Rights Act and politicians hand-picked who was able to take part in elections. For the first time ever, not a single Republican member of Congress voted to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act…