Texas Governor Gregg Abbott signed a sweeping election integrity bill on Tuesday, after state Democrats delayed the legislation for months when they fled the Capitol in May (and spread Covid-19 throughout Washington DC).
The legislature finally approved the bill last week, which Abbott signed in the city of Tyler, accompanied by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) and lead Senate sponsor Sen. Bryan Hughes (R), according to The Hill.
The new legislation bars 24-hour polling stations, places new restrictions on drive-through voting and vote by mail, and gives more authority to partisan poll watchers to be able to observe elections. It also requires voter ID to cast a ballot.
What's more, elections officials will no longer be able to distribute vote-by-mail applications to people who haven't requested them after clerks in large TX counties were found to have been sending out unsolicited applications. The bill also requires the Secretary of State's office to check voter rolls every month to attempt to identify illegal migrants who are illegally registered to vote.
"Election integrity is now law in the state of Texas," said Abbott.
"One thing that all Texas can agree and that is that we must have trust and confidence in our elections," he continued, adding that the bill "ensures that every eligible voter will have the opportunity to vote."
Abbott also touted provisions in the bill which expand early voting hours in the 12 days leading up to an election.
"Texas provides 12 days of early voting and this law even adds more hours during those early voting days. By comparison, the president’s home state of Delaware provides zero days and zero hours of early voting," he said. "It ensures that Texas provides even more opportunities for people to engage in the voting process than the president’s home state of Delaware as well as many other states across the entire country."
Shortly after Abbott signed the legislation, Democratic operative attorney Marc Elias and his team launched a lawsuit on behalf of four Texas organizations, "Two Hispanic advocacy groups, a retiree organization and the state’s largest teacher’s union. The lawsuit will challenge the law under the First and Fourteenth amendments to the Constitution, and under two sections of the Voting Rights Act," per The Hill.
"Year after year, Texas has one of the lowest voter turnout rates in the country, yet Republicans in the state remain intent on limiting access to the ballot box, particularly for voters of color," said Elias. "After Texas Democrats blocked the passage of past iterations fo the bill in the regular legislative session and the first special session, Republicans finally achieved their goal of enacting a law, Senate Bill 1, that limits almost every method of voting in the state."