Texas governor signs new GOP voting restrictions into law

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott shows off Senate Bill 1, also known as the election integrity bill, after he signed it into law Tuesday in Tyler, Texas. The bill further tightens Texas’ strict voting laws.

TYLER, Texas — Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed an elections overhaul into law Tuesday that adds more voting restrictions in the booming state, after Democrats spent months protesting what they say are efforts to weaken minority turnout and preserve the GOP’s eroding dominance.

Abbott signed the sweeping changes during a ceremony in the East Texas city of Tyler, where the surrounding county went for former President Donald Trump by a more than 2-1 margin last year. But it was far closer in Texas overall, with Trump carrying the state by 51/2 points, the thinnest margin of victory by a GOP presidential nominee there in decades.

The bill signing again underlined the hard right turn Texas Republicans made this year, including a new state law that took effect last week banning most abortions. Abbott said he chose Tyler because it was home to the voting bill’s main author, Republican Sen. Bryan Hughes, who also authored the new abortion restrictions.

Already, the rewrite of Texas’ voting laws are the target of at least three federal lawsuits — including another filed Tuesday — and all contend the changes will have a disproportionate impact on minorities. Abbott and other Republicans say it expands access by increasing the minimum number of early voting hours, but the law also puts new restrictions on late-night voting.

“I feel extremely confident that when this law makes it through the litigation phase, it will be upheld,” Abbott said. “Because exactly what we’ve said, it does make it easier for people to be able to go vote. No one who is eligible to vote will be denied the opportunity to vote.”

Texas is among at least 18 states that have enacted new voting restrictions since the 2020 election, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

The laws are part of a national GOP campaign, including in Florida, Georgia and Arizona, to tighten voting laws in the name of security, partly driven by Trump’s false claims that the election was stolen.

Opponents did not wait for Abbott’s signature to begin filing lawsuits against the new Texas law known as Senate Bill 1. The American Civil Liberties Union, minority rights groups and disability advocates are part of a broad coalition that filed separate lawsuits last week in federal court in Texas, accusing Republican lawmakers of violating the federal Voting Rights Act and intentionally discriminating against minorities.



Some changes squarely take aim at Harris County in the Houston area, where President Joe Biden carried the county of 1.6 million voters last year by a 13-point margin. Amid the coronavirus pandemic last year, Harris County elections officials offered 24-hour polling places and drive-thru voting, which are now banned under the new law. The county also tried sending mail-in ballot applications to more than 2 million registered voters, but going forward in Texas, any elections official who tries sending an application to someone who doesn’t request one could face criminal charges.

Partisan poll watchers are now also entitled to more movement, and election judges who obstruct them could also face criminal penalties, which Democrats argue could lead to voter intimidation.

“Black votes were suppressed today. Texas Governor Greg Abbott has intentionally signed away democracy for so many. We are disgusted,” NAACP President Derrick Johnson said in a statement.

In response to new voting restrictions in GOP-controlled statehouses, Democrats in Congress want to pass new federal voting rights protections at the federal level but have been unable to overcome opposition from Senate Republicans.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki defended Biden’s approach on voting rights, saying the president had used his bully pulpit and made Vice President Kamala Harris the point person on the issue. But Psaki said the administration planned to take additional but unspecified steps to address concerns from voting rights groups. “We would say to these advocates: We stand with you,” Psaki told reporters Tuesday aboard Air Force One. “There’s more we’re going to keep working on together.”

Abbott signed the bill 100 days after Democrats kicked off a summer of last-ditch maneuvers by walking out of the state Capitol to temporarily block the measure. That was followed by more than 50 Democrats flying to Washington, D.C., in July to thwart the bill for a second time, which led to Republicans issuing civil arrest warrants in an effort to compel Democrats to return, although no one wound up being forced to come back.

But the protests did not wind up significantly changing the bill, underscoring Republicans’ determination to pass the measure and the strength of their commanding majority in the Texas Capitol.

(7) comments

Joseph Tafoya

This article is very racist. It assumes that people of minorities, especially people of color, do not have the ability nor the knowledge to get the proper ID to vote. Here is what Texas Voting Laws do.

Brings voter ID to mail-in voting, similar to Texas’s existing ID law for in-person voting. (Sec. 5.01, 5.05). Voters only need a Texas driver’s license, a state ID card number, or the last four of their Social Security number to comply. ID cards are free to voters who can’t afford them. Texans could use an expired driver’s license or ID card, and if they do not have a valid ID or Social Security number, they only need to file a “statement” with their ballot. o Texas law already requires an ID to cast a ballot in-person, and that law has been upheld by the courts.

Makes it easier to vote early, and makes access more consistent across the state (Sec. 3.08) . Texas offers two weeks of early voting. H.B. 3 expands early voting hours by requiring “at least nine hours” of early voting per weekday and six hours on the last Sunday—one additional hour per day. o H.B. 3 provides substantial, consistent windows for early voting: 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. on weekdays and Saturdays, and 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. on the last Sunday of early voting. H.B. 3 also lets voting extend even later into the evening than S.B. 7 would have done. H.B. 3 gives voters who are in line when polls are scheduled to close a guaranteed right to remain in line and cast a ballot. H.B. 3 ends drive-thru and 24-hour voting, two policies implemented in only a small number of jurisdictions, solely to respond to the pandemic.

Strengthens protections against vote trafficking (Sec. 6.05, 7.04) o H.B. 3 bolsters protections against vote trafficking by making it illegal for third parties to be paid to collect ballots or assist voters in casting a ballot. Voters can still get assistance with their absentee ballots if they need it, including from family members and caregivers.

Creates a chance to cure defective mail ballots (Sec. 5.09, 5.11). If a voter returns a ballot missing required information, he or she must be notified (or the ballot must be returned) within two business days. Voters will have until six days after Election Day to cure issues with their ballot. Ensures public officials follow Texas law (Sec. 7.04). H.B. 3 requires that public officials follow state election laws; specifically, they may not “create, alter, modify, waive, or suspend” a state law unless authorized to do so. Public officials would be barred from distributing absentee ballots to voters who did not request them, and from sending unsolicited absentee applications or using public dollars to pay outside groups to collect absentee ballots.

Improves voter roll maintenance and clarifies voter registration for felons (Art. 2). Requires voter registrars to coordinate to ensure that duplicate voter registrations are removed when voters move within the state.

Where are the restrictions? These are rules just like any rule or law that has requirements.

Russell Scanlon

It also bans 24 hour voting, bans drive through voting, bans mailing ballots to potential mail-in voters, and empowers “poll watchers”—reminiscent of Jim Crow days—and all of these measures were passed in direct retaliation for Houston’s efforts to increase turnout in 2020. It has nothing to do with your presumptions about race. It has to do with suppressing people who have transportation issues or who work nighttime shifts, etc. And in rural counties, the threat of rogue “poll watchers” is very real

You’re not fooling anyone Joseph. And your comment about “republic vs. democracy” is laughable at best. And superseding anything else in their discussion—THERE IS NO WIDESPREAD VOTER FRAUD AND THERE NEVER HAS BEEN. The Governor would have spent his time better by trying to fix the issues with Texas’ energy grid. And why would any party with confidence in the popularity of it’s message try to restrict voting? Why?

Jim Klukkert

You can go on and on Sr. Tafoya. The truth is simple: When the People Vote, Democrats Win! The R's have known this for decades, and we can trace their public comments to prove their knowledge.

Given R knowledge of this fact, and their total lack of ethics, it is no surprise they have labored mightily to suppress the vote. They just cannot handle losing.

The Texas law is just the latest effort to subvert the will of the People and thus sabotage our fragile experiment in Democracy.

Looks like the R's might have it in spades, so you can rest happy, Sr. Tafoya!

Russell Scanlon

The photo says it all: A bunch of old white men smiling and applauding because they have made the precious act of of voting in a democracy more difficult for people who don’t look like them. This is the only way the GOP can win anymore, since their policies are unpopular with a majority of Americans and are generally recipes for failure and disaster ( in the case of COVID, death.)

JB Weinberg

Amen, Russell! Amen.

Joseph Tafoya

Rusell, we live in a Representative Republic, not a democracy.

Richard Vinet

Call it whatever you want. It doesn't change the fact that the GOP has ALWAYS opposed making it easier for people to vote. Why? The more people who vote, the less likely they are to win elections.

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