Republicans in the Texas House passed a sweeping election reform bill early Friday, but not before reaching an agreement with Democrats that weakened provisions they deemed the most problematic.
Senate Bill 7, which passed 81-64 around 3 a.m. local time, was initially delayed by Democrats after they deployed procedural delays and hours of questions toward its author, Republican state Rep. Brian Cain.
The amendments agreed to lessened criminal penalties for those breaking election laws, allowed problematic poll watchers to be removed, reaffirmed that election officials who made honest mistakes would not be held criminally liable, allowed voter registration applications to be sent to high schools and instructed the state to improve its ability to track early ballots online.
The bill was combined with similar legislation that passed the state Senate in April. Both chambers must now negotiate a final version and send it to Gov. Greg Abbott before the legislative session ends on May 31.
Abbott has indicated that he plans to sign the bill into law: “I made election integrity an emergency item in this session to help ensure every eligible voter gets to vote & only eligible ballots are counted,” he wrote on Twitter Thursday. (RELATED: Ron DeSantis Signs Sweeping Election Reforms Into Law)
Democrats, however, slammed the bill and said that it was a means to make voting harder.
“It is old Jim Crow dressed up in what our colleagues are calling election integrity,” Democratic state Rep. Jessica Gonzalez said on the House floor.
“We don’t need to wait for bad things to happen to protect the security of our election,” Cain responded. “I don’t believe that this is voter suppression, I believe it is voter enhancement.”
Democrats have sharply objected over a provision that bans Texas county election officials from sending absentee ballot request forms to voters automatically. Corporations are also opposed to the bill, and over 50 of them signed an open letter disparaging “any changes” that would make it harder to vote.
Senate Bill 7’s advanced less than a day after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a voting reform bill into law in Florida.
The bill, which he signed on Fox News after barring every other media outlet from covering it live, curtails absentee voting, bans ballot harvesting and outlaws private funding for election-related expenses.
Republicans have introduced election reform bills in states across the country following the 2020 election and months of former President Donald Trump falsely alleging that it was stolen. Despite his continued claims, no evidence has emerged to support them.
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