Texas House resumes work on election integrity bill, which could reach Abbott's desk in days

AUSTIN, Texas (KTRK) -- After stalling for weeks, the fight over election integrity restarted on Monday in Austin and could land on Gov. Greg Abbott's desk in days.

HOUSE COMMITTEE TAKES UP THE ELECTION INTEGRITY BILL

For the second time this summer, the constitutional rights and remedies committee took testimony on the election integrity bill. In July, testimony lasted 14 hours, and went into the overnight hours.

This time, lawmakers limited questioning the bill's author to just 40 minutes, which allowed for public testimony to start sooner.

Testimony was carried over from the July hearing, and people could submit testimony virtually, but the majority of people who spoke in-person on Monday were in favor of the bill.

"It's a great bill, and it will go far to reduce the perception of widespread fraud, because if people don't think their vote is going to count because people think there's a lot of fraud going on, that's the worst voter suppression you can have," one person told lawmakers.

There were others, though, who expressed their concern.

"Senate Bill 1, or its substitute, would take Texas in the wrong direction," one person said. "You will end up restricting participation without appreciably improving election accuracy."

SEE ALSO: Voting reform bill passes through House committee, outlawing unsolicited vote-by-mail applications

WHAT'S IN THE BILL?

The House committee took up testimony on the Senate bill instead of its own. For weeks, the House was in limbo with Democrats out of the state. The Senate continued to work and passed its bill.

The legislation would eliminate voting measures that were implemented during the pandemic in Harris County, including drive-thru and 24-hour voting. It would also prohibit local leaders from sending out unsolicited mail-in ballot applications. The bill would give more power to poll watchers, create criminal penalties to certain individuals that assist with voting, and although 24-hour would be eliminated, it would expand early voting hours across the state.

Rice University political science professor Mark Jones explained there are some differences between the House and Senate bills.

"The Senate removed more of the objectionable items related to potential harassment by poll watchers, but they didn't remove everything," Jones explained. "I think right now the will and desire by Republicans to compromise by Democrats is pretty low after the quorum break."

HOW SOON COULD THE BILL REACH THE GOVERNOR?

Although Democrats stalled the bill for weeks, Jones said the bill could reach Abbott's desk in days.

On Monday, the House committee approved the election integrity bill in a nine to five vote. It now heads to the House chamber, where it could be debated as early as Thursday.

"As long as Democrats provide quorum, this bill will pass in the House, and then will either go directly to Gov. Abbott's desk, or if there are some minor changes, it will go to the governor's desk after being approved by the Senate next week," Jones explained.

Jones doesn't expect many changes in the House because the clock is ticking with the special session. It's scheduled to end next week, and many changes could stall the process.

WILL DEMOCRATS KEEP A QUORUM?

After reaching quorum last week, some House Democrats questioned if there was a true quorum. On Monday, a quorum was verified.

House Speaker Dade Phelan proclaimed a quorum was present, but verification was requested. During that time, lawmakers were required to sit in their seats, and the serjeant-at-arms verified who was present.

It was determined 100 members were in the chamber. Currently, there needs to be 99 House members present to be a quorum.

SEE ALSO: Quorum reached in Texas House, but 34 Democrats 'feel betrayed'

House Democratic Caucus Chair Chris Turner released a statement on the House reaching quorum saying in part,

"Make no mistake - our work to protect the freedom to vote is not over. As advocates for that right, it is our duty to go wherever the fight is. With a quorum established, the Texas House Floor is the frontline, and we will fight - alongside countless advocates and allies - with everything we have to stop Texas Republicans' continued attempts to undermine our democracy."

This is a developing story. This article will be updated as more information becomes available.

For more updates on Texas Special Session, follow Nick Natario on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Copyright © 2021 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.