Wednesday July 28th, 2021 4:20AM

Texas GOP's strict voting bill on the verge of final vote

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The Texas Legislature was on the verge Sunday of signing off on some of the most restrictive voting measures in the U.S., putting the GOP on the brink of a major victory in their nationwide effort to tighten voting access following the 2020 election.

A vote in the state House expected later Sunday is the last barrier to sending Republican Gov. Greg Abbott a raft of election changes that would eliminate drive-thru voting, empower partisan poll watchers and impose new requirements in order to cast a ballot by mail in Texas, which already has some of toughest voting laws in the nation.

Democrats dug in for one last and longshot challenge on the House floor but had little means of stopping the bill. Hours earlier on Sunday, the Texas Senate muscled the bill through shortly after sunrise after bringing it up for a vote in the middle of the night on a Memorial Day weekend, when the state Capitol was all but empty.

Even before the final House vote, Democrats said they would try to block the measure in court.

“It's an awful bill," said Democratic state Rep. Jessica Gonzalez, the vice chairwoman of the House Elections Committee. ”But I'm hopeful that this underhanded behavior, the way they undercut the process, will help us when we litigate this."

Under revisions during closed-door negotiations, Republicans added language that could make it easier for a judge to overturn an election and pushed back the start of Sunday voting, when many Black churchgoers head to the polls. The 67-page measure would also eliminate drive-thru voting and 24-hour polling centers, both of which Harris County, the state’s largest Democratic stronghold, introduced last year.

Texas is the last big battleground in the GOP's nationwide efforts to tighten voting laws, driven by former President Donald Trump's false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him. Georgia and Florida have also passed new voting restrictions, and President Joe Biden on Saturday unfavorably compared Texas' bill to election changes in those states as “an assault on democracy.”

The vote in the Texas Senate came just a short time after a final version of the bill had been made public Saturday. Around midnight, Republicans wielded their majority to suspend rules that would normally prohibit taking a vote on a bill that had not been posted for 24 hours, which Democrats protested as a breach of protocol that denied them and the public time to review the language first.

The bill would newly empower partisan poll watchers by allowing them more access inside polling places and threatening criminal penalties against elections officials who restrict their movement. Republicans originally proposed giving poll watchers the right to take photos, but that language was removed from the final bill that lawmakers were set to vote on this weekend.

Another new provision could also make it easier to overturn an election in Texas, allowing for a judge to void an outcome if the number of fraudulent votes cast could change the result, regardless of whether it was proved that fraud affected the outcome.

Election officials would also face new criminal penalties, including felony charges for sending mail voting applications to people who did not request one. The Texas District and County Attorneys Association tweeted that it had counted in the bill at least 16 new, expanded or enhanced crimes related to elections.

GOP legislators are also moving to prohibit Sunday voting before 1 p.m., which critics called an attack on what is commonly known as “souls to the polls” — a get-out-the-vote campaign used by Black church congregations nationwide. The idea traces back to the civil rights movement. Democratic state Rep. Nicole Collier, chairwoman of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus, said the change is “going to disengage, disenfranchise those who use the souls to the polls opportunity.”

Pressed on the Senate floor over why Sunday voting couldn't begin sooner, Republican Sen. Bryan Hughes said, “Election workers want to go to church, too.”

Collier was one of three Democrats picked to negotiate the final version, none of whom signed their name to it. She said she saw a draft of the bill around 11 p.m. Friday — which was different than one she had received earlier that day — and was asked for her signature the next morning.

Major corporations, including Texas-based American Airlines and Dell, have warned that the measures could harm democracy and the economic climate. But Republicans shrugged off their objections, and in some cases, ripped business leaders for speaking out.

Texas already has some of the country’s tightest voting restrictions and is regularly cited by nonpartisan groups as a state where it is especially hard to vote. It was one of the few states that did not make it easier to vote by mail during the pandemic.

The top Republican negotiators, Hughes and state Rep. Briscoe Cain, called the bill “one of the most comprehensive and sensible election reform bills” in Texas’ history.

“Even as the national media minimizes the importance of election integrity, the Texas Legislature has not bent to headlines or corporate virtue signaling,” they said in a joint statement.

Since Trump’s defeat, at least 14 states have enacted more restrictive voting laws, according to the New York-based Brennan Center for Justice. It has also counted nearly 400 bills filed this year nationwide that would restrict voting.

Republican lawmakers in Texas have insisted that the changes are not a response to Trump’s false claims of widespread fraud but are needed to restore confidence in the voting process. But doubts about the election’s outcome have been fanned by some of the state’s top GOP leaders, including Attorney General Ken Paxton, who led a failed lawsuit at the U.S. Supreme Court to try to overturn the election.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who chaired Trump’s presidential campaign in Texas, offered a $1 million reward to anyone who could produce evidence of voter fraud. Nonpartisan investigations of previous elections have found that voter fraud is exceedingly rare. State officials from both parties, including in Texas, as well as international observers have also said the 2020 election went well.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Elections, General Presidential Election News
© Copyright 2021
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Texas GOP's strict voting bill on the verge of final vote
The Texas Legislature is on the verge of signing off on some of the most restrictive voting measures in the U.S. A vote was expected Sunday in the GOP-controlled Texas House that would send Republican Gov. Greg Abbott a raft of election changes that would eliminate drive-thru voting and empower partisan poll watchers
5:32PM ( 3 minutes ago )
Giolito fans 12, White Sox send Orioles to 13th loss in row
Lucas Giolito struck out 12 and the Chicago White Sox sent Baltimore to its 13th straight loss, beating the Orioles 3-1
5:23PM ( 12 minutes ago )
Police: 2 dead, 20+ injured in Florida banquet hall shooting
Police in South Florida say two people have died and 20 to 25 people have been injured in a shooting outside a banquet hall
5:23PM ( 13 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
EXPLAINER: How Texas Republicans aim to make voting harder
The Texas Senate has pushed the state one step closer to becoming the largest in the nation where the GOP is making voting harder following the 2020 elections
4:23PM ( 1 hour ago )
Risky, impatient climbers bring danger to US highest peak
Rangers who keep an eye on North America’s highest mountain peak say impatient and inexperienced climbers are taking more risk this season
4:20PM ( 1 hour ago )
Fueling box office rebound, 'Quiet Place' opens with $58.5M
John Krasinski’s thriller sequel “A Quiet Place Part II” opened over the Memorial Day weekend to a pandemic-best $48.4 million, according to studio estimates Sunday
4:09PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
White House gives GOP 1 week to reach deal on infrastructure
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says time is running short for a bipartisan deal on infrastructure and that President Joe Biden will look to act without Republican support if there's no “clear direction” when Congress returns from its Memorial Day break
1:44PM ( 3 hours ago )
Netanyahu rival seeks unity deal with his opponents
The head of a small hard-line party says he will try to form a unity government with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s opponents
1:34PM ( 4 hours ago )
Conservatives aim at Census' method for uncounted households
The U.S. Census Bureau had a last-resort solution for getting information on households that failed to respond to the once-a-decade head count
11:55AM ( 5 hours ago )
Top General short headlines
Exit polls: Far-right party gains in Cyprus parliament vote
Exit polls in Cyprus' parliamentary election show that the far-right ELAM party appears to have almost doubled its support
12:38PM ( 4 hours ago )
Buttigieg urges travelers to respect mask mandates on planes
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is urging travelers to respect flight attendants and other crew members who enforce federal mask mandates amid an increase in unruly passenger behavior
11:53AM ( 5 hours ago )
Texas GOP's new voting restrictions on verge of approval
New restrictions on voting in Texas are one step away from the governor's desk
7:54AM ( 9 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
WH legislative team pursues 'politics is personal' strategy
While President Joe Biden pitches his infrastructure plan to the American public, the real work of delivering his legislative agenda takes place behind the scenes
12:40AM ( 1 day ago )
Pressure for Senate rules change after GOP blocks 1/6 probe
Pressure is mounting on Democrats to end the practice of requiring 60 votes to move legislation through the Senate if they hope to advance President Joe Biden’s agenda
12:25AM ( 1 day ago )
GOP blocks Capitol riot probe, displaying loyalty to Trump
Senate Republicans have blocked the creation of a bipartisan panel to study the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol
12:12AM ( 1 day ago )
AP Online Congress News
Rioters blame their actions on 2020 election misinformation
Falsehoods about the election helped bring insurrectionists to the Capitol on Jan. 6, and now some who are facing criminal charges for their actions during the riot hope their gullibility might save them in court or at least produce some sympathy
9:00AM ( 1 day ago )
In Mexico, campaigners fear attacks that have killed 34
It’s routine preparation for a campaign stop for Guillermo Valencia, who's running for mayor in Morelia, capital of the troubled Mexican state of Michoacan
9:07AM ( 2 days ago )
After delays, GOP poised to block bipartisan 1/6 riot probe
Senate Republicans are poised to block the creation of a special commission to study the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol
5:54AM ( 2 days ago )
AP Elections
Syrians vote in election certain to give Assad new mandate
Syrians in government-held areas or the war torn country are headed to polling stations to vote in presidential elections set to give President Bashar Assad a fourth seven-year term
3:43AM ( 4 days ago )
It's not just Arizona: Push to review 2020 ballots spreads
People who believe debunked conspiracy theories about the 2020 election are pushing for audits of ballots and voting machines in an increasing number of states
8:30PM ( 4 days ago )
Mali's coup leader wrests back control of the government
The leader of Mali’s 2020 coup, Col. Assimi Goita, has regained control of the West African country by deposing the president and prime minister of the transitional government in an unprecedented move
4:50PM ( 5 days ago )
General Presidential Election News
Giolito fans 12, White Sox send Orioles to 13th loss in row
Lucas Giolito struck out 12 and the Chicago White Sox sent Baltimore to its 13th straight loss, beating the Orioles 3-1
5:23PM ( 12 minutes ago )
Police: 2 dead, 20+ injured in Florida banquet hall shooting
Police in South Florida say two people have died and 20 to 25 people have been injured in a shooting outside a banquet hall
5:23PM ( 13 minutes ago )
Young leads Hawks to 113-96 win over Knicks, 3-1 series lead
Trae Young scored 27 points, John Collins added 22 despite a smack to the lip and the Hawks frustrated Julius Randle and the New York Knicks once again
5:19PM ( 17 minutes ago )
Davis done at halftime, Caldwell-Pope out for Lakers in Gm 4
Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis has been ruled out for the second half of Game 4 against the Phoenix Suns due to a left groin strain
5:15PM ( 21 minutes ago )
Netanyahu could lose PM job as rivals attempt to join forces
A former ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he will seek to form a coalition government with the Israeli leader’s opponents
5:01PM ( 35 minutes ago )