(CNN)Republicans in key states intensified their push to roll back access to the ballot this week — with the GOP-led Texas House passing new voting limits Friday, a day after Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law an array of new restrictions in his state.
Republicans in the Texas House pushed past objections from corporate giants such as American Airlines and Microsoft, and fierce protests from Democratic lawmakers and voting rights advocates.
The vote came after an often-heated debate on the floor of the Texas House with Democratic lawmakers pressing the bill’s author, GOP Rep. Briscoe Cain, to cite examples of the election fraud the bill sought to prevent.
“We don’t need to wait for bad things to happen” to take action, Cain responded at one point.
The vote moves Texas closer to joining a host of other states racing to change the ground rules for future elections, following former President Donald Trump’s repeated and unfounded claims that voter fraud contributed to his loss last November. Around the country, Republicans have cast their effort as needed to restore voter confidence in the integrity of elections. But critics say the nationwide push aims to retain GOP power in key battlegrounds by making it harder for people of color and younger voters to cast their ballots.
There is no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election.
“Most of these changes are unnecessary to make voting more efficient or to prevent fraud, which is quite rare in our elections,” said Richard Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California at Irvine. “These measures are political and are being passed on a partisan basis for partisan reasons.”
The Texas measure, which now goes back to the state Senate, would empower partisan poll watchers, increase penalties for voting crimes and bar counties from sending unsolicited applications to vote by mail. It included Democratic amendments, including one that would allow election officials to call the police to remove disruptive partisan poll watchers.
“Under the cover of darkness, the Texas House just passed one of the worst anti-voting bills in the county,” Sarah Labowitz, policy and advocacy director of the ACLU of Texas, said after lawmakers voted to advance the bill in the early morning hours Friday. “SB7 will target votes of color, voters with disabilities and the civil servants who run our elections.”
A separate measure approved previously by the Texas Senate is more expansive. It would allow poll watchers to videotape people receiving assistance to vote and would ban drive-thru voting and other measures employed in urban areas in 2020 that made it easier to vote in the pandemic.
Those provisions still could make into the final law.
In Florida, DeSantis said the new law would “increase transparency and strengthen the security of our elections.” I
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