Tarrant County Democrats on conference committee for voter restriction bill

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Two Tarrant County lawmakers will participate in negotiations on the final version of a hotly contested bill criticized for restricting voters.

The Texas House of Representatives earlier this month approved its version of Senate Bill 7. But the bill that passed out of the chamber varied significantly from the one approved by the Senate.

The Senate opted not to accept the House changes, prompting the formation of a conference committee to iron out the differences. Tarrant County Democrats Sen. Beverly Powell of Burleson and Rep. Nicole Collier of Fort Worth have been selected as members of the group of 10 lawmakers that will work to craft a final version of the bill that’s agreeable to both chambers.

Other members of the committee include Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, Sen. Dawn Buckingham, R-Lakeway and Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, as well as Rep. Briscoe Cain, R-Deer Park, Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, Rep. Travis Clardy, R-Nacogdoches and Rep. Jacey Jetton, R-Richmond.

The bill was amended in the House to be more agreeable to Democrats following negotiations.

The bill as passed out of the House bars an election worker from providing an application to vote by mail to a person who didn’t request one and limits when an election judge can remove a poll watcher from a voting location. Not in the bill are measures allowing partisan poll watchers to record video at election sites, limiting poll operation hours from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. and a prohibition on drive-thru voting.

Supporters of the legislation have maintained the bill necessary to promote election integrity, one of Gov. Greg Abbott’s priorities for lawmakers.

The conference committee is tasked with coming up with a report that includes the text of the committee approved bill that will be sent to the House and Senate for approval.