Texas Legislature Sends Voting Bill to Governor

Overhaul was passed after months of drama
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 31, 2021 7:07 PM CDT
Texas Voting Bill Headed for Abbott's Desk
State Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, stands on the floor of the House of Representatives at the Capitol in Austin, Texas on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021.   (Mikala Compton/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

The GOP-controlled Texas Legislature passed a broad overhaul of the state’s election laws Tuesday, tightening already strict voting rules and dealing a bruising defeat to Democrats who waged a monthslong fight over what they argued was a brazen attempt to disenfranchise minorities and other Democratic-leaning voters. From the AP:

  • Abbott says he will sign. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said he will sign the bill, the latest in a national GOP campaign to add new hurdles to voting in the name of security. The effort, which led to new restrictions in Georgia, Florida, Arizona and elsewhere, was spurred in part by former President Donald Trump’s false claims of a stolen election. "I look forward to signing Senate Bill 1 into law, ensuring election integrity in Texas,” Abbott said in a statement minutes after the bill passed.

  • Democrats fought bill for months. Texas Democrats fought the legislation for months, arguing the bill was tailored to make it harder for young people, racial and ethnic minorities, and people with disabilities—all Democratic-leaning voters — to cast ballots, just as they see the demographics shifting to favor their party. The bill specifically targets Democratic strongholds, including Houston's Harris County, further tightening rules in a state already considered among the hardest places to cast a ballot. Harris County last year offered 24-hour polling places and drive-thru voting, as well as tried sending mail-ballot applications to 2 million registered voters. All of that would now be outlawed with Abbott’s signature.
  • A heated summer. The legislation set off a heated summer in Texas of walkouts by Democrats, Republicans threatening them with arrest, Abbott vetoing the paychecks of thousands of rank-and-file staffers when the bill failed to reach him sooner, and accusations of racism and voter suppression. The Texas House eventually passed the bill 80-41 on Friday.

  • Republicans defend bill. Texas Republicans defended the bill in the same terms the GOP has used in more than a dozen other states that have also passed restrictive voting laws this year: calling the changes practical safeguards, while denying they are driven by Trump's claims.
  • A final confrontation. The final vote did not escape a parting round of confrontation after Senate Republicans, at the last minute, scuttled one of the few areas of bipartisan agreement: efforts to shield voters with felony convictions from prosecution if they did not realize they were ineligible to cast a ballot.
  • The next fight. The Texas Capitol is set to immediately shift into another charged fight over redrawn voting maps that could lock in Republican electoral advantages for the next decade. Texas added more than 4 million new residents since 2010, more than any other state, with people of color accounting for more than nine in every 10 new residents.
(More Texas stories.)

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