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Texas Senate approves bill restricting mail-in ballots, other methods

The Texas Senate on Sunday approved S.B.7 which would place restrictions on sending and receiving mail-in ballot applications, while also banning ballot drop-boxes, drive-throughs and other voting methods. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
The Texas Senate on Sunday approved S.B.7 which would place restrictions on sending and receiving mail-in ballot applications, while also banning ballot drop-boxes, drive-throughs and other voting methods. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

May 30 (UPI) -- The Texas state Senate on Sunday approved legislation that would restrict the use of mail-in ballots and other forms of voting.

In a vote along party lines, the Republican-led Senate approved S.B.7, which among other things makes it a state jail felony for officials to send mail-in ballot applications to voters who did not request them and bars county officials from working with get-out-the-vote groups to distribute unsolicited ballot requests.

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It also imposes a $1,000-a-day fine on local election officials who do not follow procedures for updating their voter rolls and expand the power of partisan poll-watchers allowing them to "be near enough to see and hear" election activity while implementing criminal penalties on election workers who obstruct them.

Voters who request absentee ballots would also be forced to provide their driver's license number or Social Security number upon requesting and returning their ballot.

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If passed, the measure would also eliminate after-hours voting, ballot drop-off boxes and drive-through voting centers that were implemented by the heavily Democratic Harris County, which includes Houston and other major metropolitan areas.

Drive-through voting locations were used by 140,000 voters in 2020, CBS News reported.

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It would also require that early voting take place between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. while limiting Sunday early voting to between 1 p.m. and 9 p.m.

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"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," Democratic state Rep. Rafael Anchia said. "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."

Additionally in the wake of former President Donald Trump's loss to President Joe Biden in the 2020 election in which Trump made repeated unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud, the law would allow courts to throw out the results of an election if enough ballots were illegally cast to have potentially impacted the outcome of the race.

Sunday's vote will send the measure to the state House, which will then vote to send it to Gov. Greg Abbott's desk where Texas is likely to join Florida and Georgia in implementing these sweeping voting restrictions.

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Biden condemned the measures in a statement on Saturday.

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"It's part of an assault on democracy that we've seen far too often this year -- and often disproportionately targeting Black and Brown Americans," Biden said. "It's wrong and un-American. In the 21st century, we should be making it easier, not harder, for every eligible voter to vote."

The president also called on Congress to pass the For the People Act which would create automatic voter registration and expand access to early and absentee voting and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which would roll back a Supreme Court decision that overturned portions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

"I continue to call on all Americans, of every party and persuasion, to stand up for our democracy and protect the right to vote and the integrity of our elections," said Biden.

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