Texas is also set to newly empower partisan poll watchers, allowing them more access inside polling places and threatening criminal penalties against elections officials who restrict their movement. Republicans originally proposed giving poll watchers the right to take photos, but that language was removed from the final bill that lawmakers were set to vote on this weekend.
Major corporations, including Texas-based American Airlines and Dell, have warned that the measures could harm democracy and the economic climate. But Republicans shrugged off their objections, and some cases, ripped business leaders for speaking out.
The top Republican negotiators, state Sen. Bryan Hughes and state Rep. Briscoe Cain, called the bill “one of the most comprehensive and sensible election reform bills” in Texas’ history.
“Even as the national media minimizes the importance of election integrity, the Texas Legislature has not bent to headlines or corporate virtue signaling,” they said in a joint statement.
Texas already has some of the country’s tightest voting restrictions and is regularly cited by nonpartisan groups as a state where it is especially hard to vote. It was one of the few states that did not make it easier to vote by mail during the pandemic.
It is also the last big battleground in Republicans’ efforts to tighten voting laws around the country. Florida, Georgia, and Arizona have also approved new voting restrictions in recent months.
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