A rally for voting rights outside the Texas State Capitol, July 2021 (Eric Gay/AP)
Texas Governor Greg Abbott has signed a law implementing widespread restrictions on voting access.
Abbott, a Republican and supporter of Donald Trump, confirmed the measures on Tuesday in the east Texas city of Tyler. They follow another law banning all abortions after about six to seven weeks’ pregnancy.
The governor has also made headlines for his bans on steps to contain Coronavirus, including mask mandates, even though he tested positive the virus last month.
Abbott called two special sessions of the Texas legislature to push through the voting restrictions, after a Democratic walkout prevented quorums in May and July. The Democrats began returning to Texas earlier this month after House Speaker Dede Phelan signed civil arrest warrants.
Abbott proclaimed on Tuesday, “Election integrity is now law in the state of Texas.”
Critics of the bill have noted that it will especially hinder people of color from exercising their vote. Drive-through voting and 24-hour polling, which brought a surge in participation last year, are outlawed. Mail-in ballot applications were sent to more than 2 million voters, but any official who sends an unrequested application now faces criminal charges. Partisan poll watchers can move more freely, raising concerns about voter intimidation.
Texas is among at least 18 Republican-controlled states that have enacted voting restrictions since the 2020 election, amid Donald Trump’s falsehoods of widespread fraudulent ballots.
Last week, a coalition including the American Civil Liberties Union, minority rights groups, and disability advocates filed a lawsuit in federal court in Texas to block the bill. The lawsuit says Republicans violated the federal Voting Rights Act as they discriminated against minorities.
Derrick Johnson, President of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said:
Black votes were suppressed today….Greg Abbott has intentionally signed away democracy for so many. We are disgusted. This voter suppression bill is undemocratic, un-American and even violates core conservative principles.
While Greg Abbott and many other governors have confirmed over and over how far they are willing to go to attack Black voters, we will continue to fight twice as hard to defend the right to vote.
Claudia Yoli Ferla, executive director of the Move Texas Action Fund, which seeks representation and participation among underprivileged youth, said: “History will remember this period as one of democracy in distress; as an era during which our sacred freedom to vote endured unrelenting assault.”
The US House has passed the For The People Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, but both face the indefinite block of a filibuster by Senate Republicans.
On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, “We would say to these [voting right] advocates: we stand with you. There’s more we’re going to keep working on together.”
But she did not cite any specific steps.