AUSTIN – Gov. Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 1, which is what he also calls the “election integrity bill,” into law on Tuesday in Tyler, Texas.
Abbott was joined by Sen. Bryan Hughes and Rep. Andrew Murr at 11 a.m.
In a news release, Abbott said the legislation “creates uniform statewide voting hours, maintains and expands voting access for registered voters that need assistance, prohibits drive-through voting, and enhances transparency by authorizing poll watchers to observe more aspects of the election process.”
Abbott says the bill also bans the distribution of “unsolicited applications for mail-in ballots” and gives voters with a defective mail-in ballot the opportunity to correct the defect.
“The law does, however, make it harder for fraudulent votes to be cast,” Abbott said Tuesday.
In addition, Abbott said the new legislation will prevent “ballot harvesting,” something that he says has been abused in the state of Texas. Ballot harvesting is the practice in which third parties collect absentee ballots from voters’ homes and drop them off at a polling place or election office.
The controversial legislation comes after Texas Democratic lawmakers fled to Washington, D.C. in July in an effort to prevent the bill from passing.
At the time, enough Democrats vowed to remain in Washington until the special legislative session ended to prevent the lower chamber from having enough members present to pass bills. At least 51 of the 67 Democratic members of the Texas House, the number needed to break quorum, fled the state.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic last year, Harris County elections officials offered 24-hour polling places and drive-thru voting, which are now outlawed under the new law. The county also tried sending mail-in ballot applications to more than two million registered voters, but going forward in Texas, any election official who tries sending an application to someone who doesn’t request one could face criminal charges.
Texas is among at least 18 states that have enacted new voting restrictions since the 2020 election, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.
Opponents did not wait for Abbott’s signature to begin filing lawsuits against the new Texas law known as Senate Bill 1. The American Civil Liberties Union, minority rights groups and disability advocates are part of a broad coalition that filed separate lawsuits last week in federal court in Texas, accusing Republican lawmakers of violating the federal Voting Rights Act and intentionally discriminating against minorities.
Democrats in Congress want to pass new federal voting rights protections at the federal level but have been unable to overcome opposition form Senate Republicans.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.