State Watch

Abbott schedules special Texas legislative session for July 8

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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Tuesday scheduled a special session of the state legislature, during which lawmakers are expected to tackle a controversial voting bill, for July 8.

Abbott’s office did not say in its announcement what priorities would be discussed during the session, but said  “Agenda items will be announced prior to the convening of the special session.” 

Abbott had previously said he intended to use a special session to push through, among other priorities, voting legislation after Democrats in late May staged a walkout from the legislature to prevent the bill’s passage.

The bill in question would implement sweeping restrictions on voting, including curtailing early voting and drive-thru voting, barring 24-hour voting centers and scrapping straight-ticket voting.

It would also require absentee voters to give their ballots directly to an election official, thus limiting the use of drop boxes, show that they cannot to get to a physical polling place because of illness, injury or disability and provide proof of their identity.

The bill also includes strict enforcement measures, including criminal penalties on election officials who do not follow rules from the secretary of state and a requirement that large counties live-stream vote counts, among other things. 

Texas Democrats have looked to gin up national attention – and support from Democrats in Washington – over their opposition to the legislation, with several state lawmakers holding meetings on Capitol Hill last week.

However, while there were enough Democrats to deny a quorum last month with the walk out, there are not enough to block the bill’s passage in a special session. 

It is possible the legislation could be changed in the session, though it is not expected to be significantly altered. Republicans have expressed some openness, though, to change language that limits the voting window for Sundays, a measure Democrats said was intended to hurt get out the vote efforts by Black churches.

The debate over the Texas bill comes amid a mushrooming national conversation over voting rights. Several other GOP-led states like Georgia and Florida have passed or are considering similar restrictions, while Democrats have looked to expand access to the voting booth.

The GOP efforts have been fueled by calls for “election integrity” after former President Trump and his allies spread claims that widespread fraud marred the 2020 White House race. No evidence has been presented to substantiate allegations that irregularities swayed the results of the November elections to President Biden.

Tags Donald Trump Greg Abbott Joe Biden Republican efforts to restrict voting following the 2020 presidential election

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