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Texas elections bill, Senate Bill 1, heads to governor's desk for signature

This is the piece of legislation that moved House Democrats to head to Washington, D.C., to break quorum.

AUSTIN, Texas — The elections bill, Senate Bill 1 (SB 1), is on its way to the governor's desk for his signature.

The full Texas House passed the bill on Aug. 31 by 80-41. SB 1 then passed the Texas Senate 18-13 along party lines.

Now, it's headed for Gov. Greg Abbott's desk.

The GOP-backed bill was slightly revised after a 12-hour debate last week. The House committee that approved this legislation swapped the Senate's version with its own, meaning the two chambers had to compromise on changes before it went to the governor. 

This is the piece of legislation that moved House Democrats to head to Washington, D.C., to break quorum. After some Democrats returned to the Texas Capitol, the House returned to a quorum on Aug. 19.

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.

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

Gov. Abbott issued the final statement after the bill's passage on Tuesday:

"Protecting the integrity of our elections is critical in the state of Texas, which is why I made election integrity an emergency item during the 87th Legislative Session. I thank Sen. Brian Hughes, Rep. Andrew Murr, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Speaker Dade Phelan for stepping up to ensure that this bill made it to the finish line during the second special session. 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."

The ACLU of Texas issued a statement, saying the bill's restrictions disproportionately target voters of color, voters with disabilities, voters who do not speak English as their first language and older voters.

"Texans of all backgrounds and pro-voter lawmakers have fought tooth and nail for months against Texas’ voter suppression law," said Tommy Buser-Clancy, senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Texas. "SB 1 will make it harder and scarier to vote and to run elections, especially for communities of color and voters with disabilities. If lawmakers had listened, they would know that Texans want voting to be easy and accessible. The stroke of a pen can’t silence the will of the people. The ACLU of Texas will continue to fight using all available tools for a democracy that works for all of us."

Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa issued the following statement:

“Today, Texas Republicans confirmed there is only one major political party in this state that respects the basic tenets of democracy and its foundation: the freedom to vote. And while Democrats have fought hard to protect Texans’ right to vote, Texas Republicans are committed to staying in power at any cost – even at the expense of our democracy. 

"With SB 1, the GOP has only one goal: to keep Republicans in power by limiting Texans’ voting access. This bill has always been about Republicans silencing the voices of millions of Texans because they cannot win any other way. This is a racist, anti-democracy bill that will cement Texas’s position as the hardest state in the country to vote in."

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