June 17, 2021

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After All-Night Session, Texas House Approves New GOP-Backed Election Law – NPR

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Republican state Rep. Briscoe Cain, center, stands with co-sponsors as he answers questions and speaks in favor of an election bill, in the House Chamber at the Capitol in Austin, Texas, on Thursday. Eric Gay/AP hide caption

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Eric Gay/AP

Republican state Rep. Briscoe Cain, center, stands with co-sponsors as he answers questions and speaks in favor of an election bill, in the House Chamber at the Capitol in Austin, Texas, on Thursday.

Eric Gay/AP

Texas legislators approved new, more restrictive state election rules after a session that lasted from Thursday night into the early morning hours of Friday. The GOP-backed state Senate bill passed the House at 3 a.m. (4 a.m. ET) after hours of debate over Democratic-proposed amendments.

The House version of the bill, which differs significantly from what passed the state Senate, will now go to a conference committee to resolve the differences.

The bill would make it a felony to provide a voter with an application to vote by mail if they hadn’t requested one, or to use any public funds to facilitate the third-party distribution of mail-in voting applications.

The ability for polling place “watchers” to be present throughout the election day is also expanded under the bill. It sets a high bar for when such observers can be taken out of the polling place. The bill states they can be removed “only if the watcher engages in activity that would constitute an offense related to the conduct of the election.”

The bill was criticized by Democrats, progressive groups and voting rights advocates as a “voter suppression bill.” Republicans such as state Rep. Jeff Leach view it as “sensible election integrity legislation that ensures and protects full access to the ballot box.” The bill, he tweeted shortly after 4:30 a.m. (5:30 a.m. ET), cracks down on “illegal activity” undermining elections, echoing the false claims that elections last November were not secure.

The proposal is one of a long list of state election laws working their way through Republican-led state legislatures following former President Donald Trump’s false claims of voting fraud in the November presidential election. On Thursday, Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a similar election bill.

Democrats say that efforts to further restrict mail-in and early voting is a direct response to actions that led to high turnout during the 2020 elections, helping them succeed at the ballot box.

Last month, major corporations with offices in Texas spoke out against these legislative proposals. Corporate heavy hitters American Airlines, which is located in Fort Worth, and Dell Technologies, headquartered in Round Rock, criticized the effort, calling for equitable access to voting.
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