Texas Legislature Close To Adding New Restrictions To Voting Process

Texas Legislature Close To Adding New Restrictions To Voting Process

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Austin, Texas (CNN)Texas Republican lawmakers moved closer Sunday to imposing a slew of new restrictions on voting, as state Senate members voted along party lines to adopt legislation that would make mail-in voting more difficult and prohibit the after-hours and drive-through options that voting rights advocates said helped Black and Latino voters in the Houston area cast their ballots in the 2020 election.

After nearly seven hours of debate, the lawmakers adopted the conference committee report for Senate Bill 7. The vote took place minutes after 6:00 a.m. CT.

The measure moves Texas closer to joining Florida, Georgia and other states that have seized on former President Donald Trump’s lies about widespread voter fraud and enacted new laws that make voting harder for some of their states’ residents.

The Texas House has not yet voted on SB7, though it is eligible for a vote late Sunday afternoon. It must do so before the deadline of midnight Sunday.

If the final version of SB7 is approved by both the Senate and House, it will then head to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk. The Republican governor has indicated he will sign the legislation into law.

The Texas legislative session ends Monday, May 31.

CNN obtained the final language of SB7 and has read through the bill.

    The bill would ban after-hours voting — such as what Harris County, which includes Houston, and other major metropolitan areas offered in 2020, easing lines and helping shift workers. It would also prohibit ballot drop boxes and the drive-through voting centers that the heavily Democratic Harris County used.

    It would mandate that all weekday early voting take place sometime between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m., but the draft language would further limit Sunday early voting to a maximum between the hours of 1 p.m. and 9 p.m., a time constraint Democrats and voting rights activists tell CNN that they fear could add a hurdle to “Souls to the Polls” after-church, get-out-the-vote efforts in Black and Latino communities.

    “They want to create long lines so that people of color — it’s more difficult for them to vote on Sundays right after they go to church,” said Democratic state Rep. Rafael Anchiá. “That’s really what this bill is about: to have a chilling effect on voters of all stripes, and especially hard hit will be people of color.”

    The bill would make it illegal for elections officials to send applications to vote by mail to people who did not request one. And it would bar counties from helping facilitate the distribution of unsolicited ballot requests — preventing them from working with get-out-the-vote groups.

    Voters requesting absentee ballots would be forced to provide their driver’s license number or Social Security number on both their request for a ballot and their return envelope containing their ballot.

    It would also impose $1,000-a-day fines on local election officials who do not follow prescribed procedures

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