AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Republican lawmakers have advanced a sweeping elections bill aimed at continuing that party’s national push for tightening voting restrictions, even as Democrats have said the legislation would hurt voters of any party.
An agreement was reached between Republicans and Democrats in the House, and the bill passed early Friday with 20 amendments.
The amendments included lowering initially proposed enhanced criminal penalties and instructing the state to develop an online format for tracking early ballots.
The vote came after hours of debate.
Both chambers would need to negotiate a final version of the bill before it could go to Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican.
Should the bill pass and be signed into law, Texas would be the third state to pass Republican-backed legislation that cuts back on voting access. Georgia passed similar legislation in late March, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed such a bill into law earlier this week.
Republicans in nearly every state have proposed laws that would make it more difficult for citizens to vote in future elections. Proposals include restrictions mail-in voting and the use of drop boxes, as well as restrictions that limit who can provide food and water voters waiting in long lines.
While Republicans say the bill are needed to ensure election security, opponents argue that they're being passed just months after then-President Donald Trump pushed the lie that he was the winner of the 2020 election, based on baseless accusations of widespread voter fraud.
Various government officials — including Trump's attorney general, Bill Barr, and the then-director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency — have said there is no evidence of widespread fraud that would have affected the outcome of the election.
Those accusations culminated in the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol, where thousands of Trump supporters stormed the building in the hopes of stopping the certification of Joe Biden's electoral college win.