TYLER, Texas (KETK) – Gov. Greg Abbott joined Sen. Bryan Hughes in Tyler to sign a controversial bill into law.
Abbott provided the final signature on SB1, a bill that alters election laws. Rep. Andrew Murr, another sponsor of the bill, was also present at the signing along with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
“The Texas law, it does make it easier than ever before for anybody to go cast a ballot. It does also, however, make sure that is is harder for people to cheat at the ballot box in Texas,” Abbott said.
When asked why he chose Tyler to sign the bill into law, Abbott said it is because Hughes, a Mineola native, has been the lead advocate for the bill from the beginning.
“If you watch Senator Bryan Hughes talk on television, talk to the media, talk to the Senate, talk to the House, talk to me about it, he carried a heavy load in getting this across the finish line,” Abbott said. “So, in his district is the right place to sign SB1 into law in Texas.”
SB1 has caused a stir in political circles since it was introduced. Republicans say the bill is needed for election integrity while Democrats say it could lead to voter suppression.
The bill regulates early voting hours, bans drive-thru voting and allows poll watchers to record voters who receive help filling out ballots. It will also become a crime for local election officials to reject an appointed poll watcher or send out unsolicited applications/ballots for voting by mail.
“If folks will look at what’s in the bill, they will find simple, common sense reforms that the people of Texas are calling for,” Hughes told KETK in July.
The bill also expands measures previously only afforded on Election Day. Now, even in early voting, poll workers have to let people vote if they were in line before the polls closed. In addition to that, employers must let their employees go vote even during early voting if their work hours conflict. The bill would also give voters the chance to correct their mail-in ballots if it was received with an error.
“We have a great system in Texas, this bill will make it better,” Hughes said. “Protecting voters, letting them cast their votes.”
Hughes originally authored an election bill during the regular Legislative session, but it died when House Democrats staged a walkout. This bill was introduced again during the second special legislative session where it passed through both the Senate and the House once a quorum was restored.
The new law has already attracted several lawsuits.
“I’d be astonished if a law like this was not challenged in court,” Abbott said. “We’ve seen it happen whenever laws like this are passed. the first thing the Democrats do is they run to the courthouse and try to challenge it.”
The League of United American Citizens (LULAC) announced Tuesday morning that it, along with a group of other civil rights organizations, filed a federal lawsuit against the bill.
In addition to that, the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc. (LDF), Reed Smith LLP and The Arc filed another federal lawsuit on behalf of Houston-area organizations against the law.
“I feel extremely confident that when this law makes it through the litigation phase, it will be upheld in a court of law because exactly what we said: it does make it easier for people to go vote. No one who is eligible to vote will be denied the opportunity to vote. It does, however, make it harder for cheaters to cast an illegal ballot. Those are the kinds of principles the courts will uphold.”