One of the state’s largest companies, American Airlines, has come out in opposition of a voting bill passed by the Texas Senate overnight.
Republicans call it an election integrity bill.
Democrats say it will make it more difficult for people, especially minorities and people who are disabled, to vote.
The Senate took action overnight, and the House has been debating a bill of its own Thursday night.
Republicans said it’s about ensuring election integrity, while critics point out there’s no widespread evidence of election fraud, and they fear it’ll make it more difficult to for legitimate voters to vote.
While most Texans were sleeping, a lengthy debate came to a close early Thursday morning with the Texas Senate passing SB7. It passed by an 18 to 13 vote, which was along party lines.
Republicans said it shores up election integrity, while Democrats said it’s voter suppression.
"We’ve seen in recent years the confidence our fellow Texans have in the democratic process begin to erode, and of course, we want to have trust in the ballot box," said State Senator Bryan Hughes/(R) Mineola.
"The impression I get from reading the bill is that it places more restrictions, especially on minority communities in the state," State Senator Chuy Hinojosa/(D) McAllen.
The bill contains some provisions aimed at security, like giving voters the ability to track mail-in ballots online, and adding security cameras at central counting locations for votes.
I VOTED stickers are seen at a polling station on the campus of the University of California, Irvine, on Nov. 6, 2018 in Irvine, California on Election Day. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP via Getty Images))
It also expands the access for poll watchers.
Including giving the ability to record certain actions.
"Those poll watchers are standing for the public, they’re there to make sure rules are followed," Hughes added.
But civil right groups fear it’ll all lead to Jim Crow-era voter intimidation, and others speculate, cause conflict.
"I think what we’re going to end up seeing is disputes that might turn violent if this becomes law," said State Senator Royce West/(D) Dallas. "Between polls watchers and election administrators that are going to be testing one another to determine who is the alpha in that situation."
It would prohibit voting clerks from sending absentee ballots to voters who did not request them.
Other parts of the bill would undo changes some counties made because of the pandemic
It bans drive-thru voting, except for certain eligible voters, something officials in the Houston-area utilized in 2020.
There’s also a provision to limit polling hours.
Democrats said extended early voting hours in Harris County were mostly used by minorities in 2020.
"56% of them were Black, Latino, or Asian. So knowing all of that, who are you really targeting to try to drastically reduce the number of hours and times that voters can vote?" asked State Senator Carol Alvarado/(D) Houston.
"Well, senator, as you know, there’s nothing in this bill that has to do with targeting specific groups. The rules apply across the board to every voter," Hughes responded.
Texas Republicans said their bill is not part of a wave of Republican bills aimed at elections.
They said some of the actions had been discussed before the 2020 election, when President Donald Trump — despite no widespread evidence — challenged the legitimacy of the election.
Georgia Republicans recently passed a voting law that goes as far as to block people from handing out food or water to voters waiting in line.
It prompted Georgia-based Delta Airlines and Coca Cola to come out in opposition.
Late Thursday, Fort Worth-based American Airlines took a cue from its competitor, saying it is strongly opposed to the Texas Senate bill.
"As a Texas-based business, we must stand up for the rights of our team members and customers who call Texas home, and honor the sacrifices made by generations of Americans to protect and expand the right to vote," American Airlines said in a statement.
In response to Delta's comments, Georgia lawmakers threatened to take a swing at a tax break the airline gets on jet fuel.
Some Republican party officials in Texas already want lawmakers here to do the same.