After several hours of public testimony on Monday, a Republican-led committee in the Texas House advanced Senate Bill 1, a GOP “election integrity” bill that would make it more difficult to access the ballot box.
The bill passed the House Select Committee on Constitutional Rights and Remedies with a 9-5 vote. It will now move to the House floor for debate.
This is at least the fourth public House hearing over the legislation — Briscoe Cainheads may recall the election committee chief fumbled a procedural rule and canceled one of them prematurely during the regular session.
Senate Bill 1, formerly filed as Senate Bill 7, was the cause of Democrats breaking quorum during the regular session and subsequent special session. Republicans have pushed the bill as a solution to widespread voter fraud in the state, which they have been unable to provide evidence of.
Senate Republicans advanced the bill three times and moved it out of the chamber while House Democrats broke quorum in Washington. With quorum restored, House Republicans have moved quickly to advance the bill too.
House Republicans will be considering a committee substitute for the bill that keeps the legislation’s most hotly contested provisions intact, including but not limited to: the elimination of drive-thru voting by making it illegal to vote from a motor vehicle; the prevention of 24-hour voting by limiting polling hours from 6:00 a.m. to 10 p.m.; making it more difficult to vote by mail by requiring personal identification; requiring anyone who assists disabled voters to fill out paperwork; preventing county officials from sending out unsolicited vote-by-mail applications; and empowering partisan party-picked poll watchers.
Many of those provisions are a response to election changes made by Harris County during the 2020 election. County officials moved to expand vote by mail and implemented other measures like drive-thru voting to maximize social distancing and protect voters from the pandemic.
Some of those testifying against the bill on Monday warned that with the pandemic surging once again, it was unwise to prevent counties from continuing those popular measures.
James Slattery, an attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project, testified that one analysis by the civil rights group and political data company TargetSmart found that voters of color relied on the extended hours more than white voters in Harris County. He said rolling back those changes that were implemented successfully constituted voter suppression.
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