The Republican-led Texas state Senate passed a bill early on Thursday that would ban mail-in ballot drop boxes and most drive-thru voting—in the wake of controversy about the voting practices being used during the Nov. 3 election.
The bill, which passed 18–13 along party lines, will now head to the Texas state House of Representatives. Committee hearings are slated to start when the lawmakers convene Tuesday, April 6.
The measure, according to State Sen. Bryan Hughes, a Republican, is “designed to address areas through process where bad actors can take advantage because we want the people of Texas to be confident their elections are fair, honest, and open.” The legislation “standardizes and clarifies” voting rules so “every Texan has a fair and equal opportunity to vote, regardless of where they live in the state,” he added.
It will also require voters who have disabilities to prove that they cannot access polls in person in order to qualify for a mail-in ballot, and it would also require authorization from top state leaders to be alerted about any private funding of more than $1,000 that is given to election departments, according to KXAN.
The state already required that a voter provide a reason to vote by mail, including being age 65 or older, having an illness or disability, or those confined to jail or who are out of the United States during the election.
Democrats accused Republicans in the Senate of engaging in so-called voter suppression.
“Every eligible Texan deserves to have their voice heard at the ballot box—regardless of their race, ethnicity, disability, gender, age, income, or party. SB 7 makes it harder for every Texan to vote,” a statement from the state Democratic Party said. “We aggressively fought this bill because we know it will disenfranchise racial and ethnic minority voters and voters with disabilities, including veterans.”
“As I see this bill, it’s a pure case of suppression. There are some things in here that are really offensive,” said state Sen. Borris Miles, according to the Texas Tribune, while other Democrats invoked—without evidence—the Jim Crow laws that enforced racial segregation in the southern United States.
The Texas Democratic Party had attempted to expand mail-in voting in the midst of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic and filed lawsuits against the state. They argued that a lack of immunity to COVID-19, which is caused by the virus, was a condition that threatened voters’ health.
But the Texas Supreme Court ultimately rejected Democrats’ arguments and said the lack of immunity did not constitute a physical disability.