AUSTIN, Texas - Senate Bill 1 is officially on the books as of Tuesday, September 7. Governor Greg Abbott said the law will uphold the integrity of elections in Texas.
"It does make it easier than ever before for anybody to go cast a ballot. It does also however, make sure it is harder for people to cheat at the ballot box in Texas," the governor said.
Abbott said the bill creates uniform voting hours and enhances transparency by allowing poll watchers inside the polling locations, to name a few provisions.
"Another issue this law addresses is ballot harvesting. It makes ballot harvesting a third-degree felony," said Abbott.
Another thing the law does is eliminate drive-through voting, something critics have said is a form of suppression.
"We caravanned to the polls, particularly to a location where Harris County was offering drive-through voting, where some of our members who were immunosuppressed and could not necessarily be around a lot of other people, could actually participate in the electoral process," said Zeph Capo, president of Texas American Federation of Teachers.
The AFT is one of a group of civil rights groups, suing the state, in an attempt to block the law. Capo said this bill disenfranchises many voters, especially people of color.
"We don't have a voter fraud problem, we have a voter participation problem and I think this is more about ensuring the electorate stays the same. This is a red herring, this voter fraud, it’s the big lie that we've consistently heard," he said.
Capo said adding poll watchers is only going to add fuel and tension to the voting process.
"There is a deep concern about the level of power that this law is putting into the hands of the electorate to look over the shoulders of their neighbors," said Capo.
Is it voter suppression or is it voter integrity? A judge will be left to decide.
"You hear the democrats say it's tough to vote in Texas, that's just a lie," said Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
Also among the groups filing lawsuits in federal court is the Latino civil rights group LULAC. They argue the law is unconstitutional and that it makes it more difficult for Black and brown voters to cast their ballot.
"Senate Bill One, which is also called the Texas BS voter suppression bill, it’s Texas-sized bulls***," said LULAC’s National President Domingo Garcia.
David Coale, a constitutional law attorney not associated with the lawsuits, spoke with our sister station KDFW, explaining how the legal process could play out.
"The immediate order of business will be the people challenging the law will seek a temporary injunction," said Coale. "That injunction ruling will be appealed to the 5th circuit in New Orleans that is likely to issue an opinion before the date of when a decision must be reached to have the primary in a timely way."
Gov. Abbott says he is not concerned about the legal challenges.
"I feel extremely confident that when this law makes it through the litigation phase it will be upheld in a court of law," said Abbott.
Meanwhile, the liberal group Progress Texas is now calling on Congress to step in to pass federal legislation they say will protect voting rights.