Critics have attacked voter measures as similar to the Jim Crow abuse, an era when the white political power structure in Texas and other Southern states used tactics like the now-unconstitutional poll tax and literacy tests to perpetuate segregation and suppress minority voters. .
MPs passed Senate Law 7 on Friday at 3 a.m. and returned it to the Senate to resolve disagreements between the two houses before the May 31 suspension. Ahead of Friday's final vote, Republican House leaders accepted a number of amendments, including a reduction in criminal sanctions proposed in an earlier draft of the bill for various offenses committed by election officials, including the unauthorized removal of a pollster.
During the legislative discussion, State Representative Rafael Anchía, a Democrat, questioned State Representative Briscoe Cain, the Republican Chairman of the House Elections Committee, about the use of the phrase “purity of the ballot box” in the legislation. The phrase was used in the Texas Constitution and during the Jim Crow era as the basis for excluding black residents from all-white primaries. The sentence had been removed from the bill.
Democrats said the bill still contains unacceptable provisions that could hinder voting among minorities, the elderly and city dwellers trying to avoid long lines. One provision prohibits counties from distributing unsolicited ballots to voters by mail, preventing a repeat of a Harris County initiative that sparked strong opposition from Republican officials.
The Texas business community, which initially remained largely silent, has also intensified its opposition, with more than 200 companies warning that the measures could limit voter access and undermine the Texas economy. American Airlines and Dell Technologies, the first to oppose the bills, have since been joined by other companies, including Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Etsy, Patagonia, Warby Parker and Gearbox.
A recurring theme during the hour and a half rally was that the fight was not over, even though the session was nearing its postponement and Republicans prevailed. Representative Chris Turner, the Democratic leader in the House, said Republicans could count on legal action if Democrats couldn't block the bills in the Legislature.
“We'll see them in court,” he said.