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Texas House advances controversial GOP voting restrictions bill

Texas House advances controversial GOP voting restrictions bill
Texas' GOP-controlled House on Thursday passed a sweeping election overhaul bill after enough Democratic legislators who flew to Washington, D.C., to stall the government returned to the state last week. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 27 (UPI) -- Texas' Republican-controlled House late Thursday advanced a controversial bill to implement sweeping voter restrictions following months of staunch opposition from Democrats who last month fled the state to prevent the legislation from moving forward.

The Texas House lawmakers passed Senate Bill 1 79-37 on Thursday, mostly along party lines, following hours of debate on dozens of amendments, moving it closer to the desk of Gov. Greg Abbott, a proponent of the legislation.

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"This legislation will make our elections process fair and uniform," the Republican governor tweeted prior to the vote on Thursday. "I look forward to signing this bill into law."

The vote was held following months of Democratic challenges with the minority party walking out of House chambers in late May to deny their Republican colleagues the quorum needed to advance it and forcing Abbott to schedule a special legislative session.

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However, dozens of Democrats fled the state for Washington, D.C., in July to lobby Congress to pass federal voting rights legislation and to break Texas state quorum and again prevent the Republicans from having enough members to conduct House business.

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The protest continued until last week when enough Democrats returned for government to resume.

Republican backers describe the bill as necessary for election integrity and Texas is one of several GOP-controlled states that have pursued such bills in the wake of losing the presidency to the Democrats.

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Opponents and the Democrats argue the bill is anti-voter legislation that will make it harder for minorities and people of color who were integral to the last general election to cast ballots.

The bill, which a similar version passed the Senate earlier this month despite a Democratic filibuster, says it concerns "election integrity and security" and places limits on vote-by-mail, where and when people can cast ballots and criminalizes so-called vote harvesting, among other measures.

"Aiming to ban drive-thru voting, restrict early voting hours and embolden partisan poll watchers is -- by definition --voter suppression," the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas said via Twitter on Thursday. "This legislation must be stopped. S.B.1 is an undemocratic attack on Texans' right to vote in safe and accessible elections."

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The Justice Department has sued Georgia over it passing a similar bill in March.

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