The House of Representatives of the state of Texas approved Thursday night the bill to protect election integrity pushed by Republicans, after months of strikes and protests by Democratic representatives who stalled the bill’s progress in the Senate.
The bill, defended by Republicans as a way to make elections “fair and uniform” and which passed with 79 votes in favor and 37 against, would broadly tighten voting procedures across the state in order to prevent potential fraud in future elections. Democrats argued that the bill would restrict access to the polls, especially for minorities.
The House debated the bill for more than 12 hours, considering dozens of amendments, and it must be voted on one more time to take into account the proposed changes before returning to the state Senate, which had already approved it, and moving to Governor Greg Abbott’s desk for his signature.
The Election Integrity Act: proposals and Democratic resistance
The final draft approved by the House modifies voting hours in some small and medium-sized counties, adds identification requirements for voting by mail, prohibits officials from sending out unsolicited absentee ballots, guarantees the job of poll watchers from each party, and creates new rules, with possible criminal penalties, for poll workers and people who assist voters.
State House Democrats walked out of Texas in July in an effort to deny a quorum to the Republican majority and prevent the passage of the bill during the first special session. Many Democratic lawmakers did not return to the Capitol to begin the second session earlier this month, continuing the quorum breakdown, but enough representatives returned in recent days and ended the stalemate.
The battle over the bill is part of a national debate over election integrity that began in the wake of last November’s election that saw President Joe Biden elected, and over which some supporters of former President Donald Trump alleged irregularities and suggested fraud.
States such as Florida and Georgia passed similar bills aimed at avoiding eventualities and sabotage in their voting processes. Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) signed state Senate Bill 90, which strengthens voter identification and prohibits the mass mailing of ballots, ballot collection and private money from administering or financing the polls.