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How will the election bill in Texas change voting for the state?

The Lone Star state becomes the latest Republican-run state to put barriers up to voting in a move that will restrict Texans' rights.

How will the election bill in Texas change voting for the state?
Mandel Ngan AFP

Texas Republican finally got their SB1 bill through the Texan House of Representatives on Tuesday, ending months of political wrangling that included the Democrat representatives fleeing to Washington in protest. The bill is targeted at restricting the right to vote, but the GOP calls it more security for elections. The state follows in the footsteps of other Republican-led ares that have restricted the rights of voters, such as Georgia, Florida and Arizona.

The bill is expected to be ratified by Governor Greg Abbott in the coming days, along with a host of more laws. Democrats are expected to mount challenges at a federal level to overturn the new rules, as President Biden has been vocal about protecting and expanding the right to vote.

What does the bill include?

Some of the new restrictions in the bill include:

  • New ID requirements for those who vote by mail,
  • More powers for partisan poll watchers,
  • A ban on drive-through and 24-hour voting options (these had been used a lot during the pandemic),
  • New crimes for those who are deemed to be interfering with elections.

Why do the Republicans want the bill?

The GOP has been peddling a story since the last presidential election that there has been widespread voter fraud. Widespread voting fraud is virtually nonexistent.

A cynic might say the voting restrictions are aimed at preventing Democrats from regaining power in Republican held states. For example, the end of drive-through voting will mostly affect black voters, traditionally a staunch Democrat caucus in Texas.

While this bill would be important news in any state, the state in question being Texas has extra significance. The state has rapidly changing demographics and since 2004 the 'white' ethnic group has been in the minority compared to national ethnic minorities. The state taking measures that are targeted at preventing ethnic minorities from voting against the ruling party's will is not the hallmarks of a healthy democracy.

What was the Democrat response?

Democrats have been leaning on president Biden to make voting easier and fairer to access. They argue that voting needs to be protected and as free as possible, as it is a constitutional right.

Texan Democrats had turned to some radical measures to try to block the plans, such as fleeing the state twice, but their eventual return meant the Texan House had enough members present to finally pass the bill.

There had been an effort at the federal level to try and stop further voting restrictions being implemented. However, President Biden's landmark 'For the people' bill, that was initiated to widen the franchise, could not overcome the Republican filibuster and failed to pass in June.

Texan Democrats have been vocal about their hatred of the new laws that the GOP is implementing, as we will be covering in the next few days.