The Republican-led Texas Senate passed a bill on Thursday, April 1, that restricts mail-in and curbside voting.
Texas Senate passed the bill 18-13, mainly along party lines, CBS Austin reported.
The bill eliminates 24-hour voting, limiting hours from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., as well as drive-through voting lanes, requiring residents to exit their vehicles and enter polling places to vote.
If passed by the legislature and signed into law, the bill would also make it illegal for elected officials to solicit votes at mail-in ballot boxes.
It would also require voters with disabilities to prove that they cannot vote in person to qualify for a mail-in ballot and permission from top state leaders before any private funding of more than $1,000 is given to election departments, KXAN reported.
The state already required voters to provide a reason for voting by mail, such as being 65 or older, having an illness or disability, or being in jail or out of the country at the election time.
The bill now goes to the Texas House of Representatives, where committee hearings begin on April 6.
State GOP Sen. Bryan Hughes, the author of the bill, said it aims to protect election integrity.
“Overall, this is designed to address areas through process where bad actors can take advantage, because we want the people of Texas to be confident their elections are fair, honest and open,” State Sen. Bryan Hughes said.
The bill “standardizes and clarifies” voting rules so “every Texan has a fair and equal opportunity to vote, regardless of where they live in the state,” Sen. Hughes claimed.
He argued that the bill was not intended to restrict voting rights, noting that he had filed a similar bill two years before the allegations of election fraud in the wake of the 2020 presidential election.
“I’m not the one trying to make this a national debate,” Hughes said. “I’m talking about Texas.”
After several hours of debate, Senate Bill 7 (Election Integrity) and Senate Bill 12 (Social Media Censorship) fully passed the Texas Senate early this morning. #txlege #SB12 #SB7 @Scott_SanfordTX@BriscoeCain pic.twitter.com/HdQPc2FBy7
— Senator Bryan Hughes (@SenBryanHughes) April 1, 2021
Meanwhile, state Democrats and others oppose the bill, claiming it would be a means of voter suppression.
“Senate Bill 7 is the worst voter suppression we’ve seen since Jim Crow, a full-on assault on the voting rights of Texans with disabilities and Black and Latino voters,” said Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa, The Dallas Morning News reported.
“Jim Crow” refers to racial segregation laws that existed in the southern U.S. until the mid-1960s.
This statement echoed President Joe Biden’s concerns about Georgia’s H.B. 531, which he described as “Jim Crow in the twenty-first century” and “an attack on the right to vote in Georgia” in a statement on March 26.
During the CCP Virus (coronavirus) pandemic, the Texas Democratic Party attempted to expand mail-in voting and filed lawsuits against the state. They claimed that a lack of immunity to COVID-19 jeopardized voters’ health.
However, the Texas Supreme Court dismissed Democrats’ arguments, ruling that the lack of immunity did not constitute a physical disability.