Texas governor signs controversial voting access law

·2-min read
Texas Governor Greg Abbott, pictured (left) with then-president Donald Trump in May 2020, says the new law will make life 'harder for cheaters' (AFP/Brendan Smialowski)

Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed the state's controversial election integrity bill on Tuesday after a months-long battle with Democrats who say it restricts the voting rights of minorities.

Senate Bill 1, which supporters argue makes elections safer by protecting against voter fraud, prohibits drive-in voting and institutes several other restrictions on voting hours and mail-in voting.

"It does make it easier for people to be able to go vote," Abbott said at the signing in the city of Tyler, in northeast Texas.

"No one who is eligible to vote will be denied the opportunity to vote. It does however make it harder for cheaters to cast an illegal ballot."

Abbott's signature followed a protracted battle that saw 50 Democratic lawmakers flee Texas in a desperate attempt to deny the Republicans the minimum number of present representatives required to vote.

The move comes with supporters of former US president Donald Trump still alleging without evidence that widespread voter fraud occurred in the 2020 election that he lost.

President Joe Biden called an earlier formulation of the legislation "an assault on democracy" that would disproportionately affect voters of color.

Since January, at least 18 American states have adopted laws restricting voting and around a dozen others are under consideration, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

The local Latino community, unionists and retirees have already filed lawsuits against the legislation, and a move is underway in Congress to pass voter protections under the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which would supersede the Texas law.

"Texas is one of the most difficult states in the country to vote in. Today, Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill into law that will make it even harder for eligible Texans to exercise their freedom to vote," Texas House Democratic Caucus chair Chris Turner said in a statement.

"Senate Bill 1 will go into effect on December 3. With the deliberate barriers to voting created by this legislation and redistricting just around the corner, we need the US Senate to act immediately on the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. Our democracy depends on it."

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