87th LegislatureState HouseTexas Election Reform Bill Finally Heads to Governor’s Desk After Democrats’ Quorum Break

After months of being the central lightning-rod issue in Texas politics, the major GOP election reform bill was approved by the state legislature.
August 31, 2021
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No legislation in Texas has been a bigger source of political turbulence this year than the Republicans’ priority election reform bill. Now that legislation is finally headed to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk to be signed into law.

Senate Bill (SB) 1 had many iterations before the legislature approved the final version, but its intended purpose and key components have remained the same.

Republicans have long touted that the bill will “make it hard to cheat and easy to vote.” Specific provisions of SB 1 will shore up protections in state code for poll watchers, require ID for mail ballot applications, clamp down on vote harvesting schemes, and create new regulations for voter assistants.

The final version of the bill was approved by the House in an 80 to 41 vote and the Senate in an 18 to 13 vote on Tuesday afternoon.

It now heads to Abbott to be signed and will go into effect in December.

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“Protecting the integrity of our elections is critical in the state of Texas, which is why I made election integrity an emergency item during the 87th Legislative Session,” said Abbott in a statement.

“Senate Bill 1 will solidify trust and confidence in the outcome of our elections by making it easier to vote and harder to cheat. I look forward to signing Senate Bill 1 into law, ensuring election integrity in Texas.”

Throughout the regular session earlier this year, the election reform bill was a point of contention between Republicans and Democrats.

A version of the legislation was nearly approved by both chambers, but at the last hour, Democrats walked off of the House floor to break the quorum needed to consider legislation.

In retaliation, Abbott vetoed the portion of the state’s budget that funds the legislative branch, though he gave lawmakers the chance to pass that again during the special session that he called before it would affect anything.

But after the House began considering the election reform bill again at the start of the special session in July, Democrats once again fled the chamber to break quorum.

For over a month, House Democrats remained unified enough to keep Republicans in a bind, but eventually enough members returned to the floor to allow the body to conduct business.

With only a short time left in the special legislative session, lawmakers in the lower chamber were quick enough to get the bill that the Senate had already passed through the process.

Though it passed almost completely along party lines — with just one dissenting vote from Rep. Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio) — the criticism it received from Democrats still influenced the direction of the legislation.

For instance, the final version of the bill took off a provision that was previously included that would have limited Sunday voting hours after some criticized it as being “racist” and allegedly targeting “souls to the polls” activities carried out by some African American churches.

The bill also saw new provisions added to it that will require poll watchers to receive training from the secretary of state and allow extra steps to a cure process to prevent ballots from being rejected on account of accidental errors.

Update: This article was updated to include a statement from Gov. Abbott.

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Daniel Friend

Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.