AUSTIN — Senate Republicans late Tuesday pushed ahead with legislation requiring Texans to show photo identification to vote. Democrats and minority groups charged that the bill would create one of the most restrictive voter ID laws in the country.
Meeting as a "committee of the whole" -- a parliamentary procedure which had the effect of expediting the bill -- senators heard testimony from witnesses on both sides of the issue before voting 20-12 to recommend Senate passage, with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst joining the chamber's 19 Republicans in support of the measure. Democrats, as expected, unanimously opposed the bill.
The vote sets the stage for a late-night session that begins at 9:20 tonight, when senators plan to consider at least 26 Democratic amendments and move toward a final vote, which is likely to come well after midnight.
Dewhurst, the Senate's presiding officer, and Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, the bill's sponsor, said the bill will probably undergo changes before the final vote and suggested that Republicans and Democrats might find common ground on some items.
Opponents of the bill, conceding inevitable passage in the Republican-controlled Legislature, are gathering ammunition for a possible legal challenge of the measure, which must receive clearance by the Justice Department for compliance with the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Dewhurst said he is confident that the bill will get Justice Department approval and said legislative leaders have been consulting with the state attorney general's office to make sure they are on firm legal ground.
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