Politics & Policy

Texas Senate Passes Republican Voting Bill, Overcoming Dem Obstruction

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The Texas Senate voted to advance a major Republican voting bill on Thursday in an 18-11 vote, along party lines.

Senate Bill 1 passed after state Senator Carol Alvarado finished a 15-hour talking filibuster in an attempt to delay the vote. Filibuster rules prohibited Albarado from eating, sitting down, leaning on her desk, taking a bathroom break or speaking about subjects unrelated to the bill.

The all-night filibuster came one day after Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, a Republican, signed arrest warrants for 52 Democrats who did not return during the fourth day of the House’s second special session. The Democrats’ absence left the chamber eight members short of a quorum.

As Republicans hold the majority in both chambers, Democrats do not have the votes to stop the bill from passing. Instead, they have been working to delay the vote since June, when Democrats walked out of a legislative session to deny a quorum for Republicans to advance the bill.

Last month, 57 Texas House Democrats traveled to Washington, D.C., on private chartered jets, using their physical absence to deny Republicans of their needed quorum. They planned to hide out in the Capitol and fight for federal voting legislation until the Texas special legislative session expired.

Democrats have opposed the legislation, accusing Republicans of trying to suppress votes. However, Republicans have repeatedly said the bill is meant to make it “easier to vote and harder to cheat.”

The bill aims to mandate that voters write their driver’s license or other identification number on absentee ballots, bans state officials from sending out unsolicited mail-in ballots, and bans 24-hour and drive-in voting.

While the legislation originally limited early voting on Sundays before elections, the provision was struck from the legislation after Democrats claimed the provision was intended to curtail “souls to the polls” voting drives for black churchgoers.

After the Senate passed the bill on Thursday, Republican state Senator Bob Hall called the legislation “one of the best bills we’ve passed in a long time,” according to the Washington Post.

“We made changes, fundamental changes that will benefit all people,” Hall said. “It doesn’t matter your background, your ethnicity. It’s aimed at everyone in Texas to ensure that every vote counts.”

He noted that feedback from constituents helped form the legislation that was finally passed.

“There was a lot of input from all parties in there, that, I think, made the bill better,” Hall said.

“There is absolutely nothing racist in this bill,” he added.

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