WASHINGTON, D.C. — Texas Republicans have proposed so many different voter suppression bills that they can’t even decide which to send to the governor first. Tensions are building between the Republican-dominated House and Senate as leadership in each chamber pushes to get their own voter suppression bill passed out of the Legislature. The state Senate’s bill, Senate Bill 7, would cut back early voting hours, ban drive-thru voting and prevent election officials from proactively mailing out absentee ballot request forms to qualified voters. The state House’s bill, House Bill 6, would criminalize election officials sending out unsolicited mail-in ballot applications and require anyone assisting a voter with casting their ballot to disclose why — targeting disabled voters and those who don’t speak English.
Both bills would be bad news for Texas voters, but Republican leadership is divided over which provisions they prioritize, with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) backing S.B. 7 and House Speaker Dade Phelan (R) supporting H.B. 6. During a Thursday hearing on S.B. 7, House Elections Committee Chair Briscoe Cain (R) replaced the bill’s language with that of H.B. 6, essentially gutting the state Senate legislation in favor of the state House’s priorities. The effort was chaotic, with other Republicans on the committee originally abstaining from votes, until finally they fell in line and advanced the replaced version of S.B. 7 out of committee without a hearing on the legislation’s new language. It now awaits a full state House vote.