AUSTIN, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) - The Texas House began debating Thursday, August 26, the controversial elections integrity bill that has been making national headlines for months.
Lawmakers submitted 77 amendments.
Republicans say they want to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat, while Democrats say there has been no widespread voter fraud and the bill makes it more difficult to vote.
"This is serious and thoughtful legislation," said Rep. Andrew Murr/R-Kerrville.
"Members, this bill. There's no reason for this bill," said Rep. Rafael Anchia/D-Dallas.
The Texas House debated the elections integrity bill for the first time since Democrats broke quorum at the end of the regular session and again last month when more than 50 they flew to Washington, DC to block the legislation.
Under Senate Bill 1, Republicans say early voting would have to be at least nine hours Mondays through Saturdays between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.
On Sunday, early voting would have to be at least six hours between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m.
But 24-hour voting and drive-thru voting won't be allowed, as Harris County offered last year.
Curbside voting though for the disabled is still allowed.
Democrats said there was a good reason for the drive-thru voting.
"Particularly for folks that had a credible fear of contracting the virus that they were allowed to vote in their car very conveniently, vote in their car so they wouldn't contract the virus," said Rep. Armando Walle/D-Houston.
"It doesn't expand the ability for you to vote from an automobile if you don't meet the criteria of current curbside voting, which I get to maybe that was novel approach that was tried in Harris County. It's not expansive to include that to every person," said Rep. Murr.
After being questioned whether drive-thru voting increases the likelihood of fraud, the bill's author said allowing it would negatively impact the secrecy of the ballot.
For example, in an automobile, perhaps surrounded by other people, your ability to cast your ballot in private is not as easy to do," Rep. Murr said.
"How many voters complained about the secrecy of their ballots," asked said Rep. Anchia.
Rep. Murr said, "I don't have that in front of me."
Democrats have also expressed concerns about poll watchers and the provision that doesn't allow elections officials to distribute unsolicited applications for mail-in ballots.
The bill is expected to pass the full House.
Any differences will have to either be accepted by the Senate or hashed out.
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