The Texas state Senate adopted legislation on Sunday that will limit the use of mail-in ballots and other modes of voting.
In a vote along party lines, the Republican-led Senate approved S.B.7, which among other things makes it a state jail felony for officials to send mail-in ballot applications to voters who did not request them and bars county officials from working with get-out-the-vote groups to distribute unsolicited ballot requests.
It also imposes a $1,000-per-day punishment on local election officials who fail to follow protocols for updating voter registers, and it expands the power of partisan poll-watchers by enabling them to “be near enough to see and hear” voting activities while criminalizing election workers who block them.
Absentee ballot requesters would also be required to supply their driver’s license number or Social Security number when requesting and returning their ballot.
If passed, the measure would also eliminate after-hours voting, ballot drop-off boxes and drive-through voting centers that were implemented by the heavily Democratic Harris County, which includes Houston and other major metropolitan areas.
Drive-through voting locations were used by 140,000 voters in 2020, CBS News reported.
It would also require that early voting take place between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. while limiting Sunday early voting to between 1 p.m. and 9 p.m.
“They want to create long lines so that people of color — it’s more difficult for them to vote on Sundays right after they go to church,” Democratic state Rep. Rafael Anchia said. “That’s really what this bill is about: to have a chilling effect on voters of all stripes and especially hard hit will be people of color.”
Furthermore, in the aftermath of former President Donald Trump’s loss to President Joe Biden in the 2020 election, in which Trump made repeated baseless accusations of massive voter fraud, the rule would empower judges to overturn election results if enough ballots were cast unlawfully to possibly influence the outcome of the race.
The legislation will be sent to the state House, which will then vote on whether to send it to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk, where Texas would likely follow Florida and Georgia in enacting these extensive voting limitations.
Biden condemned the measures in a statement on Saturday.
“It’s part of an assault on democracy that we’ve seen far too often this year — and often disproportionately targeting Black and Brown Americans,” Biden said. “It’s wrong and un-American. In the 21st century, we should be making it easier, not harder, for every eligible voter to vote.”
The president also urged Congress to adopt the For the People Act, which would establish automatic voter registration and improve access to early and absentee voting, as well as the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which would reverse a Supreme Court ruling that nullified parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
“I continue to call on all Americans, of every party and persuasion, to stand up for our democracy and protect the right to vote and the integrity of our elections,” said Biden.