Texas legislators approved a new state election law after a session that lasted from Thursday night into the early morning hours of Friday.
The GOP-backed bill passed the House by 3 a.m. Friday after hours of debate over several Democratic-proposed amendments. It now goes back to the Senate with amendments for another vote in that chamber.
The bill, as written, would make it a felony to provide a voter with an application to vote by mail if they hadn't requested one on their own, or to use any public funds to facilitate the third-party distribution of mail-in voting applications.
The proposal also requires that anyone who assists someone else to vote must fill out their own form explaining why the voter needs aid, the helper's name and address, how they are helping them and their relationship to the voter.
The ability for polling place "watchers" to be present throughout the election day is also expanded under the bill. It sets a high bar for when such observers can be taken out of the polling place. The bill states they can be removed "only if the watcher engages in activity that would constitute an offense related to the conduct of the election."
The bill was criticized by Democrats, progressive groups, and voting rights advocates as a "voter suppression bill." Republicans such as State Rep. Jeff Leach view it as "sensible election integrity legislation that ensures and protects full access to the ballot box." The bill, he tweeted shortly after 4:30 a.m., cracks down on "illegal activity" undermining elections, echoing the unfounded claims that elections this last November were not secure.
The proposal is part of a long list of state election laws working their way through Republican-led state legislatures. On Thursday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a similar election bill.
Democrats say that efforts to further restrict mail-in and early voting is a direct response to actions that led to high turnout during the 2020 elections, helping them succeed at the ballot box.
Last month, major corporations with offices in Texas spoke out against these legislative proposals. Corporate heavy hitters American Airlines, which is located in Fort Worth, and Dell Technologies, headquartered in Round Rock, criticized the effort, calling for equitable access to voting.