Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas on Tuesday signed a sweeping bill overhauling the state’s elections, capping a dramatic, monthslong national saga over voting rights with a new Republican-led law that will sharply restrict voting across the nation’s second-biggest state.
Appearing in deeply red East Texas, Mr. Abbott proclaimed the law a “paradigm” for other states looking to pass election bills.
Mr. Abbott argued that the law would make it “harder for people to cheat at the ballot box in Texas.” Flanked at the signing by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and the two Republican sponsors of the bill, he claimed that it would “make it easier than ever before for anybody to go cast a ballot.”
Mr. Abbott was referring, in part, to provisions in the law that add an extra hour on weekdays during early voting. But the legislation in fact contains multiple measures that will make voting harder. In particular, it bans balloting methods that Harris County, which includes the Democratic bastion of Houston, introduced last year to make voting easier during the pandemic, including drive-through polling places and 24-hour voting.
The law will also further restrict absentee voting, with one provision barring election officials from sending voters unsolicited absentee ballot applications and from promoting the use of vote by mail, and another further limiting the use of drop boxes.
The law also greatly empowers partisan poll watchers; creates new criminal and civil penalties for poll workers who fall afoul of the rules; and erects new barriers for those looking to assist voters who need help, such as with translations.
Before Mr. Abbott had even signed the bill, voting rights groups, civil rights groups and Democrats filed lawsuits against the legislation, arguing that multiple provisions would violate both the Voting Rights Act and amendments to the Constitution.
This article will be updated.