Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a sweeping election bill into law on Tuesday morning, after months of battles with Democrats who fled the state in a futile effort to block the legislation.
Flanked by Republican state officials who championed the legislation, including Sen. Bryan Hughes, Rep. Andrew Murr and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Abbott praised the law.
"Election integrity is now law in the state of Texas," Abbott said after signing the bill.
He and other lawmakers argue the new rules will make it easier to vote by expanding the required early voting hours in the state. But critics point to the reduction in early voting hours in some of the state's most populous areas, which will now be prohibited from allowing overnight early voting.
By Tuesday afternoon, five lawsuits were filed challenging the new law, but Abbott, a Republican, said at the bill signing he believed it will survive.
"I feel extremely confident that when this law makes it through the litigation phase, it will be upheld in the court of law," he said.
Democrats have called the bill "Jim Crow 2.0" and said it is designed to suppress access by voters of color. Republicans say the legislation is necessary to prevent voter fraud from occurring, despite broad evidence indicating that voter fraud is exceedingly rare.
The law bans drive-thru and overnight early voting, which were popular in Houston's Harris County during the pandemic. The bill also adds a new ID requirement for absentee voting and creates a process to correct information on mail ballots.
Partisan poll watchers and people helping voters cast a ballot will be subject to a raft of new rules and regulations governing their conduct. Poll watchers will be trained and empowered to move more freely around the polling place and obstructing a watcher will become a criminal offense. Those helping voters will have to fill out paperwork disclosing their relationship and recite an oath for poll workers.
[via NBC News]