A bill raising criminal penalties for certain election-related offenses and imposing new voting restrictions cleared a major hurdle Friday, setting the stage for yet another floor debate over voter suppression at the Texas Legislature.
On a party line vote, the Texas House Elections Committee passed Senate Bill 9, which contains measures tightening rules for assisting elderly or disabled voters and turns some misdemeanors, like improperly assisting or filling out ballot applications, into state jail felonies. While Republican supporters frame SB 9 as an “election integrity” bill, a coalition of civil rights groups call it a “dangerous new assault on voting rights in Texas.”
The passage Friday comes days after more than a 200 people registered opposition against the bill in a public hearing. On Wednesday, lawmakers on the elections committee heard hours of testimony from several dozen opponents in a meeting that ended after midnight. While a brief delay, due to one Republican member’s illness, gave opponents short-lived hope of stalling the bill in committee, members convened an impromptu meeting for the vote during a recess in the House on Friday morning. The bill has already passed the more-conservative Senate and faces a Tuesday deadline for initial approval in the full House.