TEXAS, USA — Hundreds of Texans lined up at the state Capitol on Saturday for their first opportunity during the special legislative session to testify before lawmakers over the renewed effort to pass new voting restrictions.
Both House and Senate committees are expected to take up the respective versions of GOP-backed legislation, and as of early Saturday afternoon, more than 300 people had signed up to speak.
Lufkin Republican Rep. Trent Ashby, chair of the select committee hearing the House's voting bill, said he expected bills to be advanced out of committee at the close of the Saturday hearing, meaning the House's bill could get a floor vote as early as next week.
Lawmakers returned to Austin on Thursday for a special session called by Gov. Greg Abbott because Democrats thwarted the priority elections bill in the final hours of the regular legislative session by staging a walkout to break quorum.
In Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 3, both chambers have revived proposals to further clamp down the state’s voting-by-mail rules, and rein in initiatives that Harris County — the state’s largest county that is home to Houston and a diverse population — attempted in 2020 to widen access to voting.
Both bills carry over measures from the regular session to bolster protections for partisan poll watchers and embrace new ID requirements for voting by mail that were added at the last minute to the sweeping voting bill, known as Senate Bill 7.
Former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke was among those waiting for his opportunity to testify against the bill, while using his social media to encourage others to join him at the state Capitol.
"If you want to make sure that we save democracy and preserve voting rights and have free and fair elections in Texas then come down to the state Capitol and sign up to testify," he said in video posted to Twitter.
This story was originally published at TexasTribune.org. The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.