Since the Texas House and Senate passed different versions of election bills, decisions on what one will look like will be hammered out in what is known as a conference committee. Five Senators and five House members will comprise it. The Senate has named conferees, while the House has not yet.
“I think we are going to see a final bill, I hope by the end of this week,” said Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola.)
Hughes is the committee chairman. He authored the Senate version, which eliminates drive-through voting, and limits early voting hours. The House bill didn't include those measures.
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“We haven't said this has to be in, this has to be out. We are going to negotiate in good faith. But based on the make-up of the House and the Senate, I think we are going to have a strong bill and I expect that those elements will be back in the bill,” said Hughes.
Both the House and Senate bills went largely down party lines. The House bill, like the Senate bill, gives poll watchers more latitude. The House legislation says officials can only send out mail-in ballots if requested. Proponents call it election security, while critics call it voter suppression.
Sen. Beverly Powell (D-Burleson) voted against the Senate version.
“I believe it’s a really bad bill, a divisive bill, and we really fought really hard against this bill,” said Powell.
She too is on the conference committee, the only Democrat of the five Senators appointed. It is a fight she will continue.
“I think it’s really important to note here that I represent a majority-minority district and it’s really important to me to continue to fight for voting rights for all Texans, but especially for our marginalized voters that are so impacted by SB 7, our African American voters and our Hispanic voters as well,” said Powell.
Once the conference committee has a final bill, it will then have to be voted on by both and House and Senate, before it can get to Gov. Greg Abbott.
The Presidents of Texas State NAACP and LULAC have sent a letter to the Lieutenant Governor, expressing disappointment that none of the Senate conferees are African American or Latino.