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(Earl McGehee/CC)

Texas House members effectively blocked Texas' most restrictive voting bill yet in a late-night session on Sunday.

An hour before the midnight deadline, House Democrats left the floor, blocking a bill that would upend Texas voting laws. It might be well before next year that the bill is revived, however.

The bill adds restrictions to mail-in voting, including preventing officials from sending absentee ballots to those who have not requested them, and prohibits drive-thru and certain after hours options. Proponents of the new measures say that it will promote election integrity after former President Donald Trumps' allegations of voter fraud in the 2020 election, while opponents say that the new restrictions could keep Black and Brown residents from voting.

While it appears the bill is gone until next year's session, Gov. Greg Abbott said he will address "voting integrity" as well as a bail reform bill in a special 30-day session later this year.

"Ensuring the integrity of our elections and reforming a broken bail system remain emergencies in Texas," Abbott said. "Legislators will be expected to have worked out the details when they arrive at the Capitol for the special session."

Democrats left the floor after trying to filibuster the bill, pulling out the "last tool in the toolbox" by forcing the vote with 14 fewer members present than the 100 required.

Opponents called the bill "shameful" for making it "harder to vote," as the bill protects partisan poll watchers and adds stricter identification to mail-in ballots. SB 7 also cuts out early voting options before 1 p.m. on Sunday, which Democrats felt was directly related to stifling massive voting events that occur in Black churches

They also heavily criticized a portion that makes it easier for judges to declare fraud in elections. The bill would allow a court to void an election with only evidence that fraud more than likely influenced a victory, and the court can declare the election fraud "without attempting to determine how individual voters voted."

Rep. Travis Clardy, R-Nacodoches, said that the section will still keep fraud investigations intact.

You still have to prove fraud and all of those elements," Clardy said.

Instead of blocking voters and promoting undue allegations of fraud, Republicans argued that SB 7 would make election results more trustworthy.

Rep. Briscoe Cain, R-Deer Park, said the bill simply "seeks to make it easy to vote and harder to cheat."

The bill will be looked at once more in the special session, according to Abbott, who has not yet specified the next date to reconvene.


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