After All-Night Hearing, Texas Republicans Advance Voting Measure

Studies consistently rate Texas near the top of the list of states that make it harder to register and vote, which explains, in part, why the Democrats view the stakes as so high.

Though retooled from the regular session, the voting bills in both houses resurrected most of the ingredients in the original legislation. Both would ban 24-hour voting and drive-through voting sites, increase the criminal penalties for election workers who run afoul of regulations, limit what assistance could be provided to voters and expand the authority and autonomy of partisan poll watchers.

But the latest bills jettison two contentious provisions from the first round that Democrats had vehemently opposed, removing a limitation on Sunday voting and a provision that would have made it easier to overturn an election.

For this weekend’s hearings, Democrats and voter advocacy groups opposed to the bills had rallied witnesses from around the state to testify.

State Senator Borris Miles, a Houston Democrat, said two busloads of witnesses and a 20-car caravan had made the trip from his district. Both Mr. Miles and Lina Hidalgo, the chief executive of Harris County, the state’s most populous, told reporters that the bills would extract a harsh toll in the Houston region by dismantling election innovations, such as 24-hour voting, that were put in place during the 2020 election.

“We’re under attack,” Mr. Miles said.

After getting a late start on the voting measure by spending hours on a bail overhaul bill, the House committee worked through the night to hear many of the nearly 300 witnesses who had signed up to testify. Several who were still waiting in the committee room past dawn began to joke about the early morning hour and expressed gratitude to Trent Ashby, the Republican House chairman, for not shutting off testimony.

“Good morning, Mr. Chair, thank you for staying,” said Hector Mendez, representing the group Texas College Democrats. “Happy 6:30 to all of you,” another witness said.

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