The Texas state Senate on Sunday morning passed a sweeping election reform bill that was criticized by high-profile Democrats.
The bill passed largely along party lines after an overnight debate that stretched into Sunday morning before the bill was passed at around 6 a.m. local time in a closed-door session, according to local media. The House must approve the bill before midnight on Sunday.
Previously, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, signaled that he backs GOP election measures.
The bill would grant more power to poll watchers by giving them more access inside polling areas, and it would also create new criminal penalties against election officials who restrict poll watchers’ movement. The bill would also allow a judge to void the outcome of an election if the number of fraudulent votes could change the result of an election.
Officials who send mail-in ballots to people who did not request them may also face criminal penalties, according to the bill.
According to a tweet from the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, at least 16 new or enhanced crimes related to elections were included in the bill.
State Sen. Bryan Hughes, a Republican, said that the measure will keep Texas’s elections fair and honest.
“We want elections to be secure and accessible,” said Hughes, who authored the bill, according to the Dallas Morning News.
During the Senate session, Hughes said his bill has “common sense” mandates against fraud, reported the Texas Tribune. “The provisions of this bill apply equally across the board,” Hughes said in response to allegations from Democrats that the bill would restrict minority voters.
Over the weekend, President Joe Biden weighed in on the bill, alleging in a statement that it “attacks the sacred right to vote,” adding: “It’s part of an assault on democracy that we’ve seen far too often this year—and often disproportionately targeting Black and Brown Americans.”
“The Texas law is shameful and Republicans clearly, in Texas and throughout the country, want to make it harder to vote and easier to steal an election,” Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), a member of House Democrats’ leadership, told CBS News on Sunday. “That’s the only way I can interpret the voter suppression epidemic that we see working its way from one state, Georgia, to Arizona to Texas and all across the country.”
Marc Elias, a lawyer who has filed a number of election-related lawsuits on behalf of Democrats, signaled that he will file a suit in the coming days.
“States to watch for NEW voting rights litigation (in order of likelihood) 1. Texas,” he wrote on Twitter on Sunday. Elias also filed a lawsuit challenging an election integrity bill that was passed and signed into law in Florida several weeks ago.
Other than Florida and Texas, a number of GOP-led states have pushed or have passed laws meant to add new safeguards to elections, drawing considerable condemnation from Democrats, who have claimed Republicans are trying to rig voting in their favor.
In mid-May, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, signed a bill that updated the eligibility requirements to remain on the state’s early voting list in a bid to make elections more secure.
From The Epoch Times