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Texas House advances controversial election bill

Time is ticking in the second special session, and lawmakers have tackled the controversial bill that led House Democrats to break quorum.

AUSTIN, Texas — The bill that led House Democrats to leave the State of Texas earlier this summer has advanced in the House of Representatives. A slightly revised version of Senate Bill 1 (SB 1), the GOP-backed election bill, passed 79 to 37 after a 12-hour debate.

The House voted final approval on Friday, 80-41, but the bill won't go directly to Gov. Greg Abbott's desk. The House committee that approved this legislation swapped the Senate's version with its own, meaning the two chambers will have to compromise on changes before it goes to the governor.

What is Senate Bill 1, the election bill?

SB 1 would amend the state's election code to clamp down voting-by-mail rules and limit initiatives Harris County took in 2020 to widen access to voting. It would increase protections for partisan poll watchers and add new ID requirements for voting by mail  

If passed, partisan poll watchers will be granted "free movement" at polling places, except for at a voting station when a voter is filling out their ballot. It would also be a criminal offense to obstruct a poll watcher's view or distance them in a way that would make observation impossible.

Voters would be required to provide their driver's license number or the last four digits of their social security number on applications for voting by mail ballots.

Both SB 1 would outlaw drive-thru voting and require voting to happen inside a building. They also would ban 24-hour voting and ban the distribution of unsolicited mail-in ballot applications.

From a broken quorum to a vote

Earlier in August, at the start of the second special session in the Texas Legislature, the Texas Senate cleared SB 1 and sent it to the Texas House. That vote came after a record-breaking 15-hour filibuster by Democratic Sen. Carol Alvarado.

On Monday night, after hours of testimony from the public, a Texas House committee advanced SB 1.

RELATED: Sen. Carol Alvarado discusses her 15-hour filibuster against the GOP voting restrictions bill

The Texas House wasted no time to advance the legislation, as the House was operating under a broken quorum for more than a month. Gov. Abbott called a second special session in July, immediately following the first. The Texas House ended the first and started the second special session without a quorum present. 

House Democrats traveled to Washington, D.C., in an effort to halt the legislation. The Democrats returned to the Texas Capitol before the House met quorum on Aug. 19.

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