Despite passing restrictive new voting bill, GOP advances more elections rules in Texas Senate

click to enlarge Republicans in the Texas Lege has pushed numerous bills during this year's sessions to make it more difficult to vote. - WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / DANIEL MAYER
Wikimedia Commons / Daniel Mayer
Republicans in the Texas Lege has pushed numerous bills during this year's sessions to make it more difficult to vote.
Texas' GOP lawmakers just don't appear ready to move on from imposing new voting restrictions.

Republicans in the Texas Senate this week advanced a bill that would impose stiffer criminal penalties for illegal voting — a reversal of legislation passed earlier this summer that would lower such punishments, the Texas Tribune reports.

What's more, Senate Republicans advanced separate legislation that would enable party officials and losing candidates to demand county audits of voting results with virtually no proof of wrongdoing, according to the Tribune.

Those moves follow a sweeping bill passed this summer over the objection of Democrats that would make it considerably harder to vote in the state. Civil rights groups argue that measure is meant to lower turnout by people of color, disabled individuals and others likely to vote for Democrats.

Despite being unable to show evidence of widespread voter fraud, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and GOP state lawmakers have repeatedly used "voting integrity" as justification for new restrictions. The claims echo those of former President Donald Trump who has repeatedly lied about fraud costing him the 2020 election.

It's unclear whether either of the new Senate proposals will gain traction in the House, however. House Speaker Dade Phelan last week tweeted that he's against reopening debate on illegal voting punishments. Meanwhile, the bill making it easier to call audits isn't on the agenda Abbott set for the current session.

Even so, voting rights groups blasted the audit proposal, saying it will sow confusion and weaken voter confidence in elections. Texas already has post-election audit procedures and criminal penalties for tampering with voting outcomes, they argue.

“There is no reason to try to relitigate the 2020 election and throw Texas’s election system into chaos with costly, never-ending politically motivated election reviews,” said Sarah Walker, executive director of Secure Democracy, in an emailed statement.

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