Early Thursday, the Texas Senate voted to pass Senate Bill 7, one of the two most restrictive voting rights bills prioritized by Republicans this session.
The bill passed in an 18-13 vote after several hours of debate. The vote was held along party lines, with all Democrats voting against the legislation.
If it becomes law, Senate Bill 7 would make it more difficult for disabled Texans to claim a disability in their mail ballot application. In order to vote by mail on the grounds of disability, voters would need written documentation from a federal agency or a doctor’s note as proof.
Additionally, Senate Bill 7 would restrict voting hours to between 7:00 a.m and 7:00 p.m. (a response to Harris County’s 24-hour voting sites) and would prevent voting sites in “temporary” structures, like tents, seen in Harris County drive-thru voting sites.
One of the bill’s authors, Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola), answered questions and debated with Democrats over the bill for several hours. He frequently dodged questions as to why the legislation was needed in the face of such few instances of voter fraud. When pressed as to why Texas was joining other Republican states in the nation like Georgia in passing voting restrictions, Hughes said Texas had been working on passing such bills long before the national trend.
A memorable moment during the evening came when Sen. Borris Miles (D-Houston) thanked Hughes and Republicans for galvanizing voters in the state with the legislation.
“I want to thank you sincerely because what you’re doing tonight, is kicking a bear, you’re waking a beast,” Miles said.
“In the times that we’re living in now, with people marching [against] social injustice, in the times we’re living in now that people aren’t afraid to protest … what SB 7 is doing, I want to thank you brother, you know not what you do,” Miles said.
The bill will now head to the statehouse, where another voting restriction bill, House Bill 6, is facing a hearing with the Elections Committee that will likely result in the bill making it to the statehouse floor (barring any parliamentary flubs).
Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at email@example.com