Texas battle over voting access bill enters round two

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State lawmakers in Texas are meeting in a special session starting on Thursday to complete unfinished business left over from the regular session.

At the top of the to do list: a controversial GOP elections bill to strengthen voting access rules that Republicans say would provide greater election security and Democrats charge would suppress voter turnout of minorities.

Democratic state lawmakers scuttled the original bill in late May, at the end of the legislative session, with a walkout that grabbed national attention.

The bill outlined on Wednesday by state House Republicans would create new ID requirements for voting by mail, and ban drive-thru and overnight early voting, which were used during the 2020 elections in the Democratic stronghold of Harris County, which includes Houston, the state’s largest city.

But unlike the bill from the regular session, the new proposed legislation would not ban Sunday morning voting, which was heavily criticized for unfairly targeting Black voters who cast ballots through “souls to the polls” efforts coordinated by churches.

While grabbing the spotlight, the elections bill is far from the only thing on the agenda for the special session, which was called by three-term GOP Gov. Greg Abbott.

The governor on Wednesday outlined what the Republican controlled legislature will debate during the session – which can last up to 30 days. 

Besides the election bill, bail overhaul, border security, social media censorship, legislative branch funding, family violence prevention, limiting transgender student access to school sports, abortion inducing drugs, additional payments for retired Texas teachers, critical race theory, and budgetary issues will be on the docket.

But the battle over the elections bill will take center stage, as Texas tries to join more than 15 other states where Republicans control the state government and have passed laws tightening voting access rules. 

Among those states are the key electoral battlegrounds of Arizona, Florida and Georgia. The push has been fueled by former President Donald Trump’s repeated unfounded claims that the 2020 presidential election was “rigged” and “stolen.”

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