Republican lawmakers made clear this week that their priority is to suppress the vote in Texas — especially for Texans of color — rather than suppress a virus that has killed nearly 50,000 in this state alone. Check out our press release today.
Republican Lawmakers This Week Make Jim Crow-Style Voter Suppression a Priority in the Middle of a Deadly Pandemic
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 25, 2021
The push by Republican lawmakers this week to advance legislation making it harder for Texans — especially Texans of color — to vote is an outrageous attack on democracy and the right of all eligible voters to have their voices heard in our elections, Texas Freedom Network President Val Benavidez said today.
“Legislators should be focused on suppressing a virus that has killed tens of thousands of Texans, not suppressing the vote,” Benavidez said. “Voting is fundamental to our democracy, but legislative leaders clearly fear it so much they are adopting measures right out of the old Jim Crow playbook to shut people out, make voting lines longer and hold turnout down.”
Two bills up for committee hearings this week — HB6 in the House Elections Committee today and SB7 in the Senate State Affairs Committee on Friday — are part of the biggest voter suppression effort by Republicans in the country. House Elections Committee Chairman Briscoe Cain, R-Deer Park, even blew up his own public hearing today after he moved to stop the chair of the Legislative Black Caucus from asking questions about how Cain’s HB6 will undermine the right of Texans of color to vote. The premature end to the hearing shut out Texans who had traveled from across the state to speak out on HB6.
HB6 and SB7 impose a slew of unnecessary voting restrictions, like limits on early and mail-in absentee voting, as well as bans on secure mobile and drive-through voting locations. These popular voting practices helped millions of Texans cast ballots safely and securely in 2020 despite the pandemic. Other provisions include voter roll purges, new barriers for voting by people with disabilities, and throwing open the door to voter intimidation by political activists masquerading as “poll watchers.” Together these provisions would raise new barriers to voting especially in large and crowded urban areas, where many Texans of color live.
Last year Texans turned out to vote in historic numbers as local officials worked successfully to make voting safe and secure during the pandemic. Analyses show the turnout surge made the Texas electorate younger and more ethnically and racially diverse. SB7 and HB6 are designed to reverse this progress, said Rae Martinez, director of TFN’s youth-organizing program Texas Rising.
“Last year young Texans and people of color turned out to vote in historic numbers as local officials worked successfully to make voting safe and secure during the pandemic,” Texas Rising Director Rae Martinez said. “The clear purpose of these bills is to reverse that trend. Legislators instead should be removing unnecessary barriers to voting so that all eligible Texans can cast a ballot no matter where they live, the color of their skin or how much money they make. That’s what democracy is about.”
Texans from across the state traveled to testify at today’s HB6 hearing, some dressing in hazmat suits and carrying signs calling on legislators to “suppress the virus, not the vote.” Photos and a soundbite are available here.
The Texas Freedom Network (tfn.org) is a grassroots organization of religious and community leaders and young Texans building an informed and effective movement for equality and social justice. Learn more about TFN’s Texas Rising program at txrising.org.