By Jack Fink

AUSTIN, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – The Texas House of Representatives is set to debate HB 6, an elections security bill that has generated national headlines and controversy around the state.

During a news conference outside the Texas Capitol Thursday morning, May 6, Democratic state lawmakers along with San Antonio Congressman Joaquin Castro sharply criticized the legislation.

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State Representative Nicole Collier, D-Fort Worth said, “This is not about bringing more people to the polls, this is not about protecting the polls, it’s to keep you away from the polls.”

If approved, HB 6 would stiffen penalties against ballot harvesting and make it a state jail felony for county elections officials who send out unsolicited vote by mail applications.

The legislation would also require those who help others vote at polling locations, to register their names and take an oath.

During a news conference Wednesday afternoon at the Capitol, Texas Republican Party Chair Allen West said this is his party’s grassroots members’ top legislative priority. “We need to have strong election laws at our states to make sure that we are restoring integrity back into our electoral process because voter fraud is voter suppression.”

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A variety of civil rights groups and businesses have publicly opposed the legislation.

A similar bill approved by the Texas Senate, SB 7, standardizes voting hours in the state, prohibits drive through voting, and expands the rights of pollwatchers.

In Dallas Thursday, Senator John Cornyn expressed his bottom line. “I do think th public does want to have confidence their ballot will count and like I said, we should continue to make it easy for people who are qualified to vote and hard for those who are not qualified to cast a ballot.”

State Representative Jessica Gonzalez, D-Dallas, said they will fight hard to reject the bill. “We’re hoping to change some minds and hopefully minimize the damage this bill will cause. If we have to go all night, that’s what we have to do.”

If the House approves HB 6, it will then go to the Senate.

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The House will consider SB 7 at a later date.