(Reuters) – The Texas Legislature on Sunday moved closer to approving a sweeping bill that curtails voting opportunities in the country's second most-populous state, as Republicans fast-tracked the measure before the legislative session closes.
After an overnight debate, the state Senate voted along party lines to pass the bill, whose provisions include limiting early hours to cast ballots, banning drive-through polling sites and placing new requirements on voters.
The measure, which follows Republican moves to impose voting restrictions in other states, now goes to the House, also dominated by Republicans, which has placed the bill on its calendar for late Sunday afternoon, with the legislative session due to expire at midnight.
Republican Governor Greg Abbott has indicated he will sign the bill into law.
The bill would bar Texans from using 24-hour polling sites or cast ballots at drive-through polling places located in parking garages and lots. It also would ban mobile units or temporary structures from being used as polling places.
The legislation also places new requirements on Texans who want to vote through the mail and would bar election officials from sending unsolicited mail-in ballot applications to voters. It also would make the removal of disruptive poll watchers more difficult.
President Joe Biden said in a statement on Saturday that the legislation in Texas "attacks the sacred right to vote."
"It’s wrong and un-American," Biden said. "In the 21st century, we should be making it easier, not harder, for every eligible voter to vote."
Republican lawmakers across the nation have pursued more stringent voting restrictions in the wake of former President Donald Trump's false claims of election fraud. So far, 14 other U.S. states have enacted 22 laws this year that make it more difficult for Americans to vote, according to a report released on Friday.
Earlier this month, dozens of companies – including American Airlines Group Inc, Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co and Microsoft Corp – urged legislators to reject any law restricting access to ballots.
(Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York and Brendan O'Brien in Chicago)
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