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What's in Senate Bill 1?

The Texas Legislature passed SB 1, the "Election Integrity Protection Act of 2021," on Aug. 31. Gov. Abbott says he will sign it.

AUSTIN, Texas — In a second special session, the Texas Legislature -- delayed twice by lawmakers leaving the Capitol over voting bills -- passed Senate Bill 1, what is called the "Election Integrity Protection Act of 2021." Gov. Greg Abbott has said he plans to sign it.

The 76-page law that will take effect just before next year’s primaries went through a lot of changes and tweaks over the course of the regular legislative session and two special sessions, so here are some highlights of what made it into the final version.

Bans drive-thru voting & 24-hour voting

The bill bans drive-thru voting, which was first used in Harris County, then rolled out by other counties. It also bans 24-hour voting, another measure used in Harris County, and sets very specific hours for early voting.

Sets new hours for early voting

Early voters can have access to the polls from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. The new legislation also requires counties with a population of 55,000 or greater to offer at least 12 hours of early voting each day during the second week of early voting. That’s for state elections.

For local elections, the bill increases required early voting hours from 8 to 9 each day.

Creates criminal penalty for some mail-in ballot applications

Local elections officials can now face felony charges if they send unsolicited mail-in ballot applications to voters. It’s still OK for political parties to do so, though.

Adds ID requirements for mail-in voting

Those who do want to vote by mail must now provide their driver’s license number or last four digits of their Social Security number, when they’re applying for a mail-in ballot and when they send it back in.

Creates new paperwork & expands oath for voter assistance

Anyone who’s helping someone fill out their ballot will now have to complete paperwork documenting their relationship to the voter.

The law also changed language in the oath assistants take. It now prevents them from answering questions. Instead, assistants are limited to “reading the ballot to the voter, directing the voter to read the ballot, marking the voter’s ballot, or directing the voter to mark the ballot.” Stepping outside those guidelines could lead to a perjury charge. 

Sets new rules for poll watchers

Partisan poll watchers will have to have training. They can also be kicked out if they violate the state Penal Code.

But the law also gives them “free movement within a polling place,” just not at a voting station where a voter is actively filling out his or her ballot.

It’s also illegal to obstruct a poll watcher’s view “in a manner that would make observation not reasonably effective.”

Checks voter eligibility monthly

Each month, the Texas Secretary of State’s Office is required to run its voter registration list against DPS’s database to remove anyone who is not a U.S. citizen.

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