Friday, January 21

Texas Republicans Advance Voting Restrictions in Special Session Following Democratic Strike | US Voting Rights

Hailee Mouch woke up at 2 a.m. Saturday morning so she could drive to her state’s capital city, Austin, and testify in two competing public hearings on Texas restrictive voting bills.

He knew he had to get back to the Dallas area to be at work at 6 a.m. Sunday. But she was determined to stay as long as possible to tell state lawmakers how her proposals would damage democracy in the small town where she goes to college.

“It shouldn’t be scary to vote,” he said. “And I am concerned that this is scary to vote.”

Mouch was among the crowd that flocked to the state capitol on Saturday, when state House and Senate committees held overlapping hearings on highly controversial voting legislation during their special rapid-fire session.

Public testimony for the House committee It didn’t start until around 2am on SundayBut lawmakers still advanced their restrictive voting bill on Sunday morning, about 24 hours after the hearing began. Stateenators He also voted in favor of his broad proposal Sunday afternoon, garnering full house votes in the coming days.

The overnight movements of lawmakers paralleled the actions during the regular session, when legislators advanced election bills while most Texans slept.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott called the special session, effectively legislative overtime for no more than 30 days, beginning July 8, after Democrats struck down a restrictive voting bill during regular session with a historic strike by the House.

“We feel like our ‘elect’ are really trying to defeat us and trying to exhaust that urgency that we have and that commitment that we have,” said Lexy Garcia, regional field coordinator for Texas Rising and Texas. Freedom Network on the battle against voting restrictions.

Abbott announced the agenda for its special session on Wednesday, and the public received very little notice before they had to appear for the hearings on Saturday.

But Texans from across the ideological spectrum still filled multiple overflow rooms and sat patiently on hallway benches, preparing to wait all day and night to testify in person at sessions.

At around 6.30 pm on Saturday, seven and a half hours after the Senate public hearing, former presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke addressed the committee. He testified again for the House committee early Sunday morning.

“Some of you are Republicans. I am a Democrat. But I think we want to win these races based on the merits of the argument, the ideas and the vision that we offer, ”O’Rourke said at the Senate hearing.

“We don’t want to win because we have effectively and functionally excluded millions of our fellow Texans from participating in these decisions that will affect our lives for generations to come.”

Texas is one of the fiercest battlegrounds in the country for the right to vote, with a deeply divided electorate and a reputation for the hardest place to cast a vote in the entire country.

Now, Republicans are backing provisions that would ban 24-hour voting and drive-thru, expose public officials to state crimes for soliciting or distributing unsolicited vote-by-mail requests, empower partisan election watchers, and significantly reduce the voter access.

Voting rights advocates warned for months that those changes could disproportionately disproportionate voters of color and people with disabilities, a concern Republican lawmakers at Saturday’s Senate hearing ignored.

“All of the provisions of this bill apply to all voters equally, regardless of where they live, the color of their skin, or their political party,” said State Senator Bryan Hughes, the author of the Senate bill. “We don’t register and declare what our race or our religion is.”

“I don’t think there is any voter suppression. I know there is no ‘Jim Crow 2’ era law on this bill. And I’ll tell you that I know there is no poll tax on this bill, ”said State Senator Paul Bettencourt.

Some Texans think the new bills don’t go far enough, however, to establish what opponents call voter suppression but the governor calls “electoral integrity.”

Melinda Roberts, an election supervisor who said she was denied entry to a polling place in 2020, initially thought the Senate had massacred and diluted her legislation too much, though she later expressed her support.

Ultimately, he wanted felony charges for election officials that restrict access for poll watchers, but he had little sympathy for anyone who found it too difficult to vote.

“I’d like to ask you, ‘Who told you that you can’t vote?’” Roberts said. “I have an elderly mother. Vote in all elections. No one has said that they cannot vote. I have a son with a double amputation. Vote in all elections. If you want to vote, you can vote. No one is holding you back. No one.”

Betty Weed disagreed. He said he opposes the bills because they would make voting “almost impossible for many people.”

Weed volunteers with a group that offers free trips to voters, and she has helped make Texans blind and finally able to vote with her help, after decades of disenfranchisement.

“The entire bill is my concern,” he said. “Almost everything about the bill will make it much more difficult to vote.”

The conservative-dominated US Supreme Court earlier this month upheld voting restrictions in Arizona, against a searing liberal dissident, in a ruling that dealt a severe blow to the Voting Rights Act, the Historic Civil Rights Act of 1965 designed to prevent electoral discrimination, and with far-reaching involvement in other states.

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