Texas Senate passes Republican-backed voting reform bill

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Texas state senators passed a GOP-led voting reform bill Tuesday, following Democrats’ departure from the state in a move to stall passing the House’s version of the bill.  

In a party-line vote, 18-4 Senate Republicans passed a bill that would more heavily regulate voting laws, an effort that Democrats have dubbed as ‘Jim Crow 2.0.’

Eight state Senate Democrats joined House members in fleeing the state for Washington, D.C., first reported the Texas Tribune. 

A ninth senator is expected to meet the group of lawmakers in the nation’s capital, but a quorum in the Senate was maintained with 22 of its 31 members present, allowing for the passage of the bill. 

“Rather than continuing to fruitlessly debate Republicans who refuse to legislate in good faith, Texas Senate Democrats decided to take matters into their own hands in order to secure the voting rights of Texans –  especially voters of colors, seniors and those with disabilities — and work with our partners at the federal level to pass voting rights legislation that would rein in discriminatory voter suppression laws and unfair redistricting practices,” the Democratic senators said in a joint statement to the Texas publication. 

But while Democrats have claimed the laws proposed by GOP senators are suppressive attempts to block voter turnout, Republicans maintain the laws would secure the elective process.

Author of the Texas-Senate’s bill — known as Senate Bill 1 — Sen. Bryan Hughes argued the language provides “common-sense reforms.”

Under the bill, a ban would be implemented on drive-thru voting, video surveillance would become a requirement, and tracking devices would be installed on all electronic devices used to count ballots to follow “input and activity.”

Changes would be made to the state’s poll-watching system, and mail-in voting would receive renewed scrutiny – requiring all voters to include a driver’s license number or the last four digits of a Social Security number on their ballot. 

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has threatened to arrest the state lawmakers who fled to Washington, D.C. in an attempt to short-circuit the House vote until Congress passes voting reform that would expand voting rights federally.

Biden has called on Congress to pass the “For the People Act” and the “John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act” to counter what Democrats argue is an attack against minority voters.

Texas is not the only GOP-led state to push for voting reforms. 

A trend amongst red states emerged following the 2020 general election, during which some Republicans suggested the rise in mail-in voting left room for fraud. 

Seventeen states have introduced 28 new laws on voting regulation. 

Lucas Manfredi contributed to this report.

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