Texas Senate Republicans passed a sweeping voting restrictions bill overnight Thursday with more potential legislation on the way, The Texas Tribune reports.
The state Senate approved Senate Bill 7, which would limit extended early voting hours, ban drive-through voting sites, and prohibit local election officers from sending absentee ballot applications to voters that did not explicitly request them.
The bill is expected to easily pass the state House.
State Sen. Bryan Hughes, a Republican, argued that the bill “standardizes and clarifies” voting rules so that “every Texan has a fair and equal opportunity to vote, regardless of where they live in the state.”
“Overall, this bill is designed to address areas throughout the process where bad actors can take advantage, so Texans can feel confident that their elections are fair, honest and open,” he said.
Democrats say the bill’s provisions are voter suppression that will disproportionately impact voters of color.
“As I see this bill, it’s a pure case of suppression. There are some things in here that are really offensive,” said state Sen. Borris Miles, a Democrat who represents Houston. “This hurts to the core.”
Bill cracks down on Houston voting rules:
Several provisions in the bill appeared aimed at Houston’s Harris County, by far the largest county in the state.
The bill limits early voting hours to 6 am to 9 pm after Harris County implemented a 24-hour early voting system last year.
The county also set up 10 drive-through voting sites, which will now be banned.
Harris County also tried to send absentee ballot applications to all 2.4 million registered voters, which was blocked by the court after absentee voting was restricted in the state to those 65 and older and the disabled.
Republicans unleash flurry of restrictions:
The bill is just one of dozens that aims to crack down on voting access in the state and one of hundreds across the country. Texas lawmakers have introduced at least 49 bills that would restrict ballot access, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, and Republican lawmakers have introduced more than 350 bills to restrict voting across the country.
The push comes after Republicans lost the White House amid record voter turnout and Democrats won numerous seats in urban areas around Houston, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, and El Paso.
“It’s a strange, strange coincidence that all of these laws are being filed right now,” said state Sen. Royce West, who represents Dallas. “That’s all I’m saying.”