Abbott Signs Texas Election Law, Ending a Fierce Voting Rights Battle

On Tuesday, after months of wrangling and two separate walkouts by Democrats, the Texas Legislature finally pushed a comprehensive election package backed by Republicans to Governor Greg Abbott’s desk.

SB 1 was approved by an 80–41 margin in the Texas House last week and by an 18–13 margin in the Texas Senate on Tuesday. Nearly every vote was cast along partisan lines. According to Abbott, he can’t wait to sign the bill into law.

“By making it simpler to vote and harder to cheat, Senate Bill 1 will strengthen faith and confidence in the results of our elections. I’m excited to put election security in Texas’s hands by signing Senate Bill 1 “what Abbott said in a press release.

Some Republicans have defended the legislation by saying it will help prevent election fraud and restore faith in the electoral process.

“When is fraud too much? None. When does silence become unacceptable? None, “Senator Bryan Hughes of the Republican Party said this. Therefore, Senate Bill 1 makes voting simple while while preventing voter fraud.

Republican-backed election measures have been met with heated opposition from Democrats who claim the law might make it more difficult for minorities or people with disabilities to cast ballots. For 38 days this summer, Democrats in the House refused to maintain quorum in order to prevent the election bill from passing the legislature.

“If this bill passes, I fear it will lead our state down a very risky path. And I think the story being told about widespread fraud without any proof is a dangerous one. It’s bad for our democracy, in my opinion “state Senator Cesar Blanco, a Democrat, made this statement.

Texas House Finally Passed the Bill Last Friday

After almost 12 hours of debate on Thursday, the Texas House finally passed the bill last Friday, but before it could be sent to Abbott, Republican state senators wanted to remove one of the modifications made by the House.

A person who votes unlawfully but does not realise they are ineligible to do so is not guilty of a crime, as stated in that amendment. The law stated that a conviction could only be obtained if the defendant had knowledge of the “specific conditions” that disqualified them from voting and “that those circumstances make the person not eligible to vote in the election.”

Crystal Mason’s contentious conviction for voting via provisional ballot in the 2016 election while she was on supervised release prompted Democrats to call for the inclusion of such language. Mason faces five years in jail. She claims ignorance of the law rendered her unable to vote, and an appeal of her case is currently pending.

According to Hughes, the proposal has raised concerns among some prosecutors and others because it could make it more difficult to pursue incidents of illicit voting. The Democrats claimed that the amendment would end wrongful prosecution.

Drive-thru and 24-hour early voting, both of which were heavily used in the Houston area last year due to the pandemic, are also outlawed under the measure.

Some smaller and medium-sized counties’ early voting hours would be extended, voter identification requirements for mail-in ballots would be instituted, unsolicited requests for absentee ballots would be prohibited, partisan poll watchers would be granted more authority, and new rules and criminal penalties would be established for election workers and those who assist voters.

Democratic state representative John Turner said, “I do believe that many of the modifications to our election rules in this measure are not only unnecessary, but are way out of proportion to the level of any actual documented fraud in our voting process.”

There are much more elements in this measure that make it harder to vote and far fewer that make it easier.

Two Separate Walkouts were Organised by Texas Democrats in an Effort to Derail the Bill.

At the end of the regular session, Democrats refused to wait for a quorum and instead voted against an earlier election law.

After the election bill failed to pass during the regular session and lawmakers were called back to Austin in July, Abbott promised to call a special session.

In order to prevent a quorum from being reached, more than fifty Democrats in the House of Representatives abruptly left Texas for Washington, D.C. few days after the first session gaveled in. Many lawmakers spent weeks lobbying for voting rights legislation in the nation’s capital.

Some Democrats returned to the Capitol earlier this month, breaking the legislative deadlock that had persisted through the walkout and into a second special session.

Final Words

No evidence of widespread voting fraud in the 2020 election in Texas has been found. According to a December article from the Houston Chronicle, Attorney General Ken Paxton’s staff spent 22,000 hours in 2020 investigating voting fraud but only ended up solving 16 relatively minor instances.

The election systems in several other states, including Florida, Georgia, and Iowa, have also been subject to significant legislative changes.

Several of Texas’s new voting restrictions have been challenged in court, and further litigation from Democrats, civil rights, and voting rights groups is to be expected.