A Republican lawmaker has insisted that a sweeping Texas electoral reform bill is “voter enhancement” rather than “voter suppression” as the controversial legislation passes the state’s House.
The lone star state has become the latest to advance new GOP-backed limits on voting in the wake of the 2020 election and Donald Trump’s election defeat.
Voting-rights advocates and Democrats have condemned the passage of such measures and have argued they will disproportionately disfranchise voters of colour.
The Republican-led restrictions cleared the Texas House on Friday, with lawmakers now expected to negotiate a final version of the legislation for approval.
Republican state representative Briscoe Cain, who authored the House version of the voting bill, insisted that the restrictions would have a positive impact on election processes.
“We don’t need to wait for bad things to happen to protect the security of the election,” Mr Cain said. “I don’t believe that this is voter suppression; I believe it is voter enhancement.”
GOP officials have pushed the new controversial limitations in states that were targets of Mr Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud during and after the election.
Following the signing of similar legislation in Georgia, which flipped from red to blue during the election and in two subsequent run-off races, high-profile companies activists spoke out vehemently against the bill.
On Thursday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis also signed parallel legislation into law, a day before the vote on the Texas bill.
Sylvia Albert, voting and elections director for Common Cause, which advocates for expanded voter access said such states are seeing first hand the impacts of Mr Trump’s “big lie”.
She said: “We are seeing them use this opportunity to create deliberate barriers to voting for Black and brown voters. It’s un-American.”
Republican supporters argue that the new limits, which will likely impact mail-in voting, are needed to instil public confidence and improve the security of state voting processes.
One way or another, in Texas, Democrats have practically no path to stop the bill in the GOP-controlled legislature, with governor Greg Abbott saying the bill was “one step closer” to his desk.
However, Democratic representatives warned of their intention to put up a legal fight against the measures.
“You have your vote, you have your majority. But guess what? I look forward to seeing you in federal court,” said Democratic state representative Trey Martinez Fischer said on Friday.
Reporting by the Associated Press