By Jack Fink

AUSTIN, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – More than 340 Texans either testified in person at the State Capitol or submitted their comments about a controversial election bill, HB 6 on Thursday, April 1.

The hearing continued into the evening.

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The author of the bill, Republican State Representative Briscoe Cain serves as Chair of the House Elections Committee.

As he opened the hearing he said, “It is incumbent upon the Texas legislature this session to ensure elections, the bedrock of our republic, are free, fair, and secure.”

Cain outlined HB 6, amid sharp criticism it would suppress votes, particularly of African-Americans and Latinos.

State Rep. Nicole Collier, D-Fort Worth, who is not a member of the Elections Committee, was not allowed by Cain to ask questions during a hearing last week.

This week, she and other House members addressed the committee.

Collier said, “Texas has a history of disenfranchising black and brown people when it comes down to voting. I want to make sure we have an opportunity to ask questions about the intent of this bill.”

Under HB 6, poll watchers would be guaranteed access to observe the elections.

It would also require those who are assisting voters to fill out a ballot at a polling place to give their name and take an oath.

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The legislation would also increase penalties against vote trafficking and harvesting.

State Rep. John Bucy III, D-Cedar Park, said those who are disabled and need help to vote are concerned about the proposed new requirements for those assisting them. “Individuals with disabilities have come to my office and said we don’t want these requirements. They feel it adds an undue burden for them to have access to the ballot box.”

Cain responded, “Why would we let someone assist somebody without taking an oath and knowing who they are.”

Early Thursday morning, the State Senate approved its own controversial elections bill, SB 7.

It doesn’t allow public employees to distribute unrequested mail ballot applications and calls for consistent voting hours & in-person voting rules statewide.

Drive-thru voting wouldn’t be allowed.

Back in the House hearing, Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin said, “Anything that would restrict people’s ability to vote or having their vote count is a stain on our democracy and is not worthy of the state of Texas.”

The proposals come at the same time as Republicans in other states are passing similar bills.

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But Cain, the author of HB 6, said it has nothing to do with the 2020 election.