© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An election officer points to a postal ballot as he scans the votes for the 2020 U.S. presidential election in Marfa, Texas, the United States, on Nov. 3, 2020. REUTERS / Adrees Latif
By Joseph Ax and Steve Gorman
(Reuters) – The Texas House of Representatives opened a debate Thursday on a Republican-backed bill banning election officials from sending unsolicited postal ballot applications to voters and giving Partisan election observers more access to polling stations.
Following major new voting restrictions in Georgia and Florida in recent weeks, the lower house of the Texas legislature was due to tentatively approve the bill on Thursday evening. The final measures are expected on Friday.
If passed, Republican lawmakers will most likely attempt to bring House law into line with Senate-passed laws that restrict early voting, including drive-through and round-the-clock voting abolish.
Both houses of the Texas Legislature are Republican-controlled, and Republican Governor Greg Abbott has expressed support for the effort.
The bill sponsors claim they are designed to prevent electoral fraud while strengthening electoral integrity and public confidence in the vote.
“This bill is about protecting voters and making sure the electoral rules are clean,” Republican representative Briscoe Cain said during the debate on the floor of the house.
Democrats and civil libertarians counter that there is no evidence of widespread election rigging, arguing that the legislation disproportionately burdens or discourages color voters and the elderly and disabled.
“I’m not sure what kind of problem we’re trying to solve today,” said Democratic representative Jessica Gonzalez.
Critics of the bill also say that giving election observers better access to polling stations is intended to intimidate blacks and Hispanics, who tend to vote more for Democratic candidates than Republicans.
Opponents of the bill, who branded the bill as synonymous with racially motivated efforts to suppress “Jim Crow” voters, have pressured large companies doing business in Texas to oppose the measure or the possibility of it To face consumer boycotts.
On Tuesday, dozens of companies – including American Airlines (NASDAQ 🙂 Group Inc., Hewlett Packard Enterprise (NYSE 🙂 Co, and Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ 🙂 – urged lawmakers to reject any law restricting access to ballot papers.
Postal voting and early voting in general increased during the 2020 election as voters tried to avoid lines at polling stations amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Republican lawmakers in numerous states have since broken new voting lines after former President Donald Trump made false claims that his loss to Democrat Joe Biden in November was the result of massive electoral fraud.
Earlier Thursday, Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis had signed a new law that made it difficult for voters to post ballot papers or use ballot boxes.
In March, Georgia passed Republican-backed law that included sweeping restrictions, sparked backlash from major U.S. corporations, and in protest caused Major League Baseball to move its all-star game out of Atlanta.
More than three months after Biden was sworn in, Trump has continued to claim the election was stolen. Courts have dismissed these claims in more than 60 lawsuits contesting the results.