The day Texas Democrats fought for months to prevent is here—Gov. Greg Abbott has signed an election overhaul into law, a week after it was passed by the GOP-controlled state legislature. Abbott, who signed the bill at a ceremony in Tyler, said it would make it "easier than ever before for anybody to go cast a ballot," but opponents strongly disagree, the New York Times reports. The bill allows an extra hour of voting on weekdays during early voting, but it also includes many new restrictions, including restrictions on late-night voting and voting by mail. It makes Texas the 19th state to bring in new voting restrictions since last year's election, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.
The bill includes several restrictions targeting Harris County, which includes Houston and is home to around a sixth of Texans, CNN reports. It bans drive-through voting and 24-hour voting, which the county introduced during the pandemic. Harris County also sent mail-in ballot applications to millions of registered voters, but election officials are now banned from sending unsolicited ballot applications. The bill also empowers partisan poll watchers and places strict new requirements on people assisting others to vote.
The voting overhaul is the target of three federal lawsuits, including one filed Tuesday, that argue it will have a disproportionate effect on minorities, the AP reports. "I feel extremely confident that when this law makes it through the litigation phase, it will be upheld," Abbott said at the signing ceremony. "Because exactly what we've said, it does make it easier for people to be able to go vote." NAACP President Derrick Johnson said in a statement that the group is "disgusted." "Black votes were suppressed today," Johnson said. (Read more Texas stories.)