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Texas Republicans Relaunch A New Effort To Pass Voting Restrictions

Texas Republicans Relaunch A New Effort To Pass Voting Restrictions

On Thursday, the Texas legislature launched its second attempt to impose new voting restrictions, introducing a pair of bills that could become some of the harshest election laws passed this year.

House Bill 3 and Senate Bill 1 were introduced on Thursday by both chambers of the legislature, and they would prohibit a slew of voting expansions implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic, including 24-hour and drive-through voting, prohibiting election officials from sending absentee ballots to those who had not requested them, expanding protections for partisan poll watchers, and instituting new, stricter ID requirements.

The bills, however, do not include two contentious provisions from previous versions. One would have prohibited voting on Sundays before 1 p.m., which critics interpreted as a veiled attempt to prohibit “souls to the polls” drives common in the Black community. There is also no provision that would make it easier to overturn election results.

Gov. Greg Abbott (R) called the special session last month, following a dramatic walkout by Democrats to block the initial barrage of restrictive legislation. Earlier this year, Democrats left the statehouse en masse at the eleventh hour, leaving the legislature short of the 100-member quorum required to pass any bills.

It was primarily a symbolic gesture.

The governor, on the other hand, was enraged and vowed to pursue the voting restrictions as well as other issues such as bail reform and anti-transgender legislation. As The Washington Post noted, Democrats have the power to walk out again, but chamber leaders — Republicans — can compel them to attend and even lock the doors during a vote or obtain a court order to force the lawmakers to reappear.

“The 87th Legislative Session was a monumental success for the people of Texas, but we have unfinished business to ensure that Texas remains the most exceptional state in America,” Abbott said in a statement released by CBS on Wednesday.

The bills could be debated on the floor as soon as next week.

The Republican Party's push for new voting restrictions is based on former President Donald Trump's ongoing lies about the 2020 election, which he lost to Joe Biden by more than 7 million votes, according to Trump and his surrogates. Trump and his surrogates claim that widespread voter fraud cost him the race.

A slew of court cases disputing that point were dismissed, and no evidence appeared to back up those claims; in fact, voter fraud is extremely rare, and Trump's own officials at the time said the 2020 election was the "most secure" in history.

Nonetheless, Republican lawmakers in the United States have passed or introduced a slew of legislation that critics say unfairly targets low-income Americans and communities of color, particularly in Democratic-leaning areas. Republicans claim the legislation is necessary to ensure “election integrity.”

The White House announced a massive counter-effort to such legislation this week, with Vice President Kamala Harris announcing that the Democratic National Committee would spend an additional $25 million on voter turnout and registration.

“It is never too soon to defend your rights,” she says.

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