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Texas Legislature passes election bill

THE Texas Legislature sent a sweeping Republican-backed election bill to Governor Greg Abbott’s desk, ending a monthslong standoff with Democrats.

The Texas House passed the bill, SB 1, 80-41 last week and on Tuesday, the Texas Senate passed it 18-13. Abbott has said that he looks forward to signing the bill.

"Senate Bill 1 will solidify trust and confidence in the outcome of our elections by making it easier to vote and harder to cheat. I look forward to signing Senate Bill 1 into law, ensuring election integrity in Texas," Abbott said in a statement.

Democrats, who have fiercely opposed the Republican-backed election proposals, have alleged the bill may make it harder for minority or disabled voters to cast ballots and are predicated on the false premise of widespread voter fraud. House Democrats broke quorum for 38 days this summer to stop the legislature from passing the election bill

"I worry that this bill is going to take our state down a very dangerous slippery slope. And I think that this narrative is dangerous, this narrative that there's widespread fraud with no evidence. I think it's damaging to our democracy," said Democratic state Senator Cesar Blanco. 

The Texas House passed the bill last Friday after more than 12 hours of debate on Thursday, but Republicans in the state Senate wanted to remove one of the House-passed amendments before sending the bill to Abbott.

That amendment said that people can't be convicted for voting illegally if they didn't know they were ineligible to vote. The measure said that a person must know the "particular circumstances" that make them ineligible to vote and "that those circumstances make the person not eligible to vote in the election" in order to secure a conviction. 

The bill also eliminates drive-thru and 24-hour early voting. It would also expand early voting hours in some smaller and medium-sized counties; add ID requirements for voting by mail; ban officials from sending unsolicited absentee ballots requests; give more powers to partisan poll watchers; and create new rules, with potential criminal penalties, for election workers and people who assist voters. 

"I do believe that many of the changes to our election laws in this bill are not only unnecessary, but are far out of proportion to the level of any actual demonstrated fraud in our voting process," Democratic state Representative John Turner said. "There are too many provisions in this bill that restrict the ease and availability of voting and too few that expand it."

Several other states, including FloridaGeorgia and Iowa, have also passed sweeping laws to overhaul their election systems. Democrats, civil rights and voting rights groups have challenged many of the new voting laws in court and lawsuits are expected in TexasCBS