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Texas Republicans pass controversial voting access law

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Texas Democratic lawmakers had temporarily fled their state in a bid to derail a Republican-led voting restrictions bill that critics say is blatant voter suppression -- but which passed on August 31, 2021./AFP
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Sep 01, 2021 - 03:27 AM

WASHINGTON — The majority-Republican Texas legislature passed a controversial law Tuesday that critics accuse of restricting the voting rights of minorities.

The law, which supporters say makes elections safer by protecting against voter fraud, prohibits drive-in voting and institutes several other restrictions on voting hours and mail-in voting.

It comes as supporters of former US president Donald Trump have alleged — without evidence — that widespread voter fraud occurred in the 2020 election which he lost.

Critics of the bill said such restrictions would disproportionately affect minorities’ ability to vote, especially Black Americans, who tend to back Democrats.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott said in a statement Tuesday that he plans to sign the passed bill into law.

Since January, at least 18 American states have adopted 30 laws restricting voting and around a dozen others are under consideration, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

Such laws have seen particular support in Republican states as Trump has continued to baselessly claim a massive voter fraud conspiracy in the presidential election.

Around 50 Democratic Texas state lawmakers fled the state entirely in mid-July in an effort to block the law by depriving the House of Representatives of the minimum number of present lawmakers necessary to vote on legislation.

But the governor convened two special legislative sessions in a row and enough Democrats finally returned to reach a quorum on August 19, which allowed them to begin debate on the law before it was passed Tuesday.

“This isn’t the time to give up or give in,” former Democratic presidential candidate and ex-US representative from Texas Beto O’Rourke tweeted Tuesday.

“This is the time to pass federal voting rights,” O’Rourke said, referring to a bill passed in the US House of Representatives but which risks being blocked by Republicans in the evenly divided Senate.

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