Hours after Florida installed a rash of new voting restrictions, the Republican-led Legislature in Texas pressed ahead on Thursday with its own far-reaching bill that would make it one of the most difficult states in the nation in which to cast a ballot.
The Texas bill would, among other restrictions, greatly empower partisan poll watchers, prohibit election officials from mailing out absentee ballot applications and impose strict punishments for those who provide assistance outside the lines of what is permissible.
After a lengthy debate that lasted into the early morning hours on Friday, the State House of Representatives passed the measure in a 81-64 vote, largely along party lines, at about 3 a.m., following a flurry of amendments that had been spurred by Democratic protests and a Democratic procedural move known as a point of order.
The new amendments softened some of the initial new penalties proposed for those who run afoul of the rules and added that the police could be called to remove unruly partisan poll watchers. Other amendments added by Democrats sought to expand ballot access, including with changes to ballot layout and with voter registration at high schools. But those amendments could be knocked off by a potential conference committee.