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As Texas Republicans prepare to approve a sweeping voting bill, President Joe Biden said on Saturday that legislation like Senate Bill 7 that restricts access to the vote was “anti-voting.” -american ”.
“Today Texas lawmakers introduced a bill that joins Georgia and Florida in advancing state law that attacks the sacred right to vote,” Biden said in a statement in Texas Tribune. “It’s part of an assault on democracy we’ve seen too often this year – and often disproportionately targeting black and brown Americans.”
SB 7, the Texas GOP’s priority voting bill, would limit early voting hours, reduce local voting options, further crack down on postal voting, and expand freedoms for observers who support the ballot, among several other changes to elections. Biden’s denunciation of the bill came just as a draft final version began circulating in the Texas Capitol. The House and Senate are expected to take final votes on the bill the next day and send it to Gov. Greg Abbott for signature before it becomes law.
“It’s bogus and anti-American,” Biden said. “In the 21st century, we should make it easier, not more difficult, for every eligible voter to vote.”
Texas Republicans kicked off the 2021 legislative session with a massive legislative campaign to pass new voting restrictions, proposing significant changes to almost the entire voting process, and paying particular attention to local efforts to make voting easier. . It was officially triggered by Abbott, when he named “electoral integrity” one of his emergency points for the legislative session despite no evidence of widespread electoral fraud. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has also named “election and ballot security” as one of his priorities.
SB 7 eventually became the primary means by which state lawmakers, like Republicans across the country, would further restrict how and when voters would vote after the 2020 election.
“Overall, this bill is designed to address areas throughout the process where bad actors can take advantage, so Texans can be confident that their elections are fair, honest and open,” the Senator said. Republican Bryan Hughes during the presentation of the bill in the Senate. earlier this year.
While Republicans have tried to define the legislation as a law that standardizes voting rules statewide, substantial portions of SB 7 were written to specifically ban voting initiatives conducted last fall in the county. largely Democratic of Harris, the largest county in the state where voters of color make up. a high share of the electorate.
This includes drive-thru voting to allow people to vote from their cars, extended early voting hours after the usual 7 p.m. deadline, and a 24-hour day of uninterrupted early voting to reach struggling shift workers. to vote during regular hours. These initiatives – which have been shown to be particularly effective in reaching voters of color – would be prohibited under SB 7.
But the expansive bill will lead to changes in voting statewide. SB 7 sets new windows for early voting – typically 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. – that would also slightly reduce overtime offered by other large counties in the last election.
The bill restricts postal voting, making it a state prison felony for local officials who distribute requests to request ballots by mail to voters who have not requested them. The ban was also a response to Harris County’s failed attempt to send nominations to the 2.4 million registered voters last year, even as other Texas counties sent nominations to voters aged 65. and more without controversy. While these voters automatically qualify to vote by mail, SB 7 prohibits counties from proactively sending them unsolicited nominations in the future. Political parties can still send out spontaneous candidacies, as Republicans and Democrats often do before elections.
It creates new identification requirements for voters who wish to vote by mail and sets a higher standard for determining who can qualify to vote by mail because of a disability. It also grants partisan observers “free movement” within a voting site.
The legislation has been condemned by voter advocates with disabilities, voter advocacy groups and civil rights organizations with a track record of fighting laws that could harm voters of color. Throughout the legislative session, they repeatedly warned lawmakers that SB 7 would remove new ballot barriers for marginalized voters, including voters of color and voters with disabilities, and that it likely violates federal guarantees. for these voters.
The final version of the bill was negotiated behind closed doors last week after the Senate and House passed significantly different versions of the legislation.
“It is fitting that the final push to bring the anti-voter Senate Bill 7 to the governor’s office is going behind closed doors, shielded from public scrutiny,” MOVE Texas director of communications said on Saturday. , Charlie Bonner. “This bill does nothing to improve the security of our elections – it only weakens our democracy by limiting access to young people, the disabled, black and brown Texans.”
On Saturday, Biden also cited the impending passage of SB 7 to call on Congress to act on federal voting legislation that would significantly reform elections and another measure that would bring back federal oversight of state changes to the law. electoral.
Until 2013, Texas was one of the states under federal oversight of its election and election laws to ensure they would not interfere with the right to vote of people of color. Federal courts have repeatedly found that Texas lawmakers discriminated against voters of color in their political mapping and in drafting new voting requirements, including the state’s original law on voter identification in 2011.
Disclosure: MOVE Texas has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, non-partisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and sponsors. Financial support plays no role in the journalism of the Tribune. Find a full list here.