AUSTIN, Texas - A controversial voting bill has passed the Texas Senate and is now awaiting a final vote in the House before being sent to the governor.
Some believe it would ensure voting security while others consider it voter restriction – that would more heavily affect those who are disabled or minorities.
"It really is kind of draconian in terms of what it does," said Gary Bledsoe, president of the Texas NAACP. "It’s an effort to return Texas to a Jim Crow or apartheid-type state where you eliminate minority voters from being ably considered during the voting process."
However, Andy Hogue with the Travis County Republican Party believes their intentions are misconstrued.
"It’s an omnibus of long-awaited reform," said Hogue. "Leave it to the democrats to exploit that and say we’re trying to be bullies and restrict voting rights, that’s definitely not the case, we just want to be able to account for votes and make sure that we can prosecute those who abuse the process."
The 67-page bill tackles a variety of voting-related issues. It prohibits ballot drop boxes and drive-thru voting. It also limits early voting hours to between the hours of 6 a.m. and 9 p.m., with the exception of Sunday mornings.
Voters would have to request a mail-in ballot in order to vote by mail and provide a driver’s license number or Social Security number.
The bill does require employers to allow time for employees to vote if the polls are not open more than 2 hours outside their work hours. It also mandates that anyone in line at the time a poll location closes can still vote.
Also included in the bill, the secretary of state must ensure that no county has a higher number of registered voters than the number of people eligible to register to vote in that county.
The bill enacts criminal penalties on election workers who obstruct poll watchers while also forbidding poll watchers from harassing or disrupting voters.
Additionally, one section allows a judge to put a hold on election results if, for example, the results are close and there is believed to have been potentially fraudulent votes. However, fraud doesn’t have to be proven initially.
Hogue said that section at least allows them the opportunity to ensure a fair election.
"I think that’s a massive reform," said Hogue. "This is progress, this is helping us do the right thing."
However, those on the opposing side believe the changes would threaten democracy.
"What they have done with surgical precision is try to suppress minority voters by addressing pre-vote activities as well as challenging the vote after an election," said Bledsoe.
The House has a deadline of midnight Sunday to vote on the bill. If passed, the governor is expected to sign it into law.