GOP Texas vote bill heads to Gov. Greg Abbott’s office after delay

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Legislation that would make sweeping changes to Texas election and election laws is heading to Gov. Greg Abbott’s office after Republicans in the House and Senate reached agreement on the final details behind closed doors.

Abbott, who lobbied for a “electoral integrity” measure, said he would sign the bill.

Tuesday’s development closes a contentious chapter for the legislature, which was deeply divided among parties over legislation. House Democrats have left the House floor twice to kill Bill, at some point when leaving for Washington, DC, while Republicans in Austin voted to arrest absent members.

Abbott vetoed funding for the legislative branch in retaliation to Democrats who broke the quorum and derailed the election measure in the regular session, and he threatened to continue to force members to return to Austin until then. that the bill be adopted. There are five days left for the second extraordinary summer session.

The House voted 80-41 on Tuesday to give final approval to the measure, with a Republican – Rep. Lyle Larson of San Antonio – joining all Democrats present in the no vote. Hours later, the Senate approved the final version 18-13 according to party lines to send to Abbott.

“Senate Bill 1 will strengthen confidence in the outcome of our election by facilitating voting and fraud. I look forward to signing Senate Bill 1, ensuring the integrity of the Texas elections,” said Abbott said in a statement shortly. after Senate approval.

“No fraud is acceptable; no deletion is OK ‘

Republicans argue that Senate Bill 1 is needed to boost confidence in election results by increasing surveillance and creating new crimes or tougher penalties related to voter fraud.

But Democrats say the bill, which is due to go into effect 90 days after the end of the session on Sunday, will make it harder for people to vote and have a disproportionate impact on people of color and people with disabilities. Republicans rejected this characterization.

“No fraud is acceptable; no deletions are acceptable, ”Bill’s author, Senator Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola said on Tuesday.

Three Democrats were asked to participate in private negotiations on the final version of the bill after the House made various changes to the measure, but none approved the final version. Only the seven Republicans who participated in the negotiations approved the conference committee’s report.

“I cannot support this bill, or the conference committee report, for one simple reason: I think this bill does our democracy more harm than good,” said Rep. John Turner. , D-Dallas, who was on the negotiating team. “Many of the changes made to our election laws in this bill are not only unnecessary, but are also out of proportion to the level of any actual fraud demonstrated in our voting process. “

Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, also a member of the conference committee, said. “I’m happy to be back on this floor, if only for the chance to vote no.”

Final version of the bill

The final version of the bill is almost identical to the version approved by the House on Friday, which includes a ban on drive-thru and 24-hour voting, adds identification requirements for mail-in ballots, and creates protections for supporter poll observers who monitor polling stations and counting operations votes.

The bill also requires advance polling sites to be open at least nine hours a day, up from the eight hours currently required.

The only change was the removal of an amendment added by the House, which would have prevented prosecution for crimes related to voter fraud in cases where individuals did not realize they were not eligible to vote. .

Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, proposed a resolution in the House on Tuesday to “reaffirm the House’s commitment” to the core principles of the amendment: “If you come in and you are ineligible and you vote knowingly it is a crime and you should be prosecuted. But if you make an honest mistake … you shouldn’t be jailed for five years under these circumstances.

A resolution can express the opinion of a legislative body, but is not a law. The House approved the resolution by a vote of 119 to 4, after approving SB 1.

“In all fairness, it may not have been necessary in the first place, because if the law as written is interpreted correctly, it should have foreseen it already,” Burrows said.

The Senate did not take similar action on Tuesday, despite questions from Democrats about whether Hughes, mover of the elections bill, agreed with the House resolution.

“The House passed a (resolution) saying that if a person votes fraudulently they should be prosecuted, but if it is a mistake they should not be prosecuted,” said Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas. “Do you subscribe to this philosophy? “

Hughes said he agreed with the broad lines of the resolution – without having read “every stroke and every title” of the document – but said he heard some people worry that “the language would have consequences. unforeseen “.


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