Members of the Texas House had a full schedule Thursday, as members debated an elections bill and as many as 70 amendments on the floor.
“While you may have strong disagreements on the legislation and policy that will be debated today, our rules require we conduct ourselves in a civil manner and treat our colleagues with respect,” said House Speaker Dade Phelan.
State Representative Andrew Murr (R-Kerrville) laid out the bill he authored, saying it’s about a uniform code of elections throughout the state, to reduce the possibility of fraud while promoting voter access.
“To keep it succinct, this is serious and thoughtful legislation,” said Murr.
The bill has the backing of the Republican majority, including Rep. Matt Shaheen (R-Plano.)
“I will be voting for this bill. I am a grandson of immigrants. I would never obviously suppress my own vote. This bill does not do that... those are falsehoods,” said Shaheen.
Democrats claim the proposal will suppress. Among their biggest concerns: It eliminates drive-through voting, limits early voting hours, gives more latitude to poll watchers, and makes changes to the mail-in ballot process. It's the reason 50-Democrats left Austin, causing a special session stalemate. Thursday, after a quorum returned, it came back to the House floor for a vote.
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“There is no reason for this bill, and no reason why we had to come back, and no reason why you had to be here,” said Rep. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas.)
Democrats took their time with questions, trying to pass amendments, like one from house Rep. Harold Dutton, Jr. (D-Houston), who wanted a line about increasing voter turnout added to the objectives of the bill.
“If we can't come together about voter participation, members, God help us and God help Texas,” said Dutton.