Texas Lawmakers Urge Congress to Act on Comprehensive Voting Rights Legislation
Washington, D.C. (July 29, 2021)—Today, Rep. Jamie Raskin, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, held a hearing on the restrictive voting bills currently under consideration in the Texas legislature, as well as how these proposals are related to nationwide voter suppression efforts fueled by baseless claims of widespread electoral fraud.
“This zealous pursuit of a massive draconian crackdown is now a national crisis,” said Chairman Raskin in his opening statement. “According to the Brennan Center, 18 states have enacted 30 laws restricting voting rights so far this year. More are on the way. We must fight back against the voter suppression campaign sparked by the Big Lie before it is too late. The future of our democracy depends on it.”
The Subcommittee heard testimony from Texas State Representative Senfronia Thompson, Member of the Select Committee on Constitutional Rights and Remedies; Texas State Representative Nicole Collier, Chair of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus; Texas State Representative Diego Bernal; Texas State Representative Travis Clardy; and Ms. Nina Perales, Vice President of Litigation at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
Witnesses emphasized that the voter suppression bills would make it dramatically more difficult to vote, especially for communities of color and other vulnerable populations.
- Rep. Thompson testified, “The voter suppression legislation disguised as a voter integrity bill has provisions that restrict access to the ballot, not only for voters of color, but also for senior voters and voters with disabilities. It would criminalize everyday Texans and elections officials with outrageous penalties for simple mistakes and gives poll watchers a lot of latitude in their capacity to hear and observe elections activities without the same stiff penalties elections judges face for violating the proposed law.”
- Ms. Perales noted, “S.B. 1 and H.B. 3 are part of this recent and older history of racial discrimination and reflect a continued effort by Texas officials to suppress minority political participation.”.”
Witnesses also highlighted that there is no evidence of widespread fraud to justify implementing voter suppression laws and trampling on Texans’ civil rights.
- Ms. Perales, in response to a question from Congresswoman Norton about the prevalence of voter fraud, said, “There’s just a complete mismatch between what’s in these bills and the very sporadic, individualized, anecdotal reports of voter fraud in Texas.”
- Rep. Bernal stated, “I think the policy itself bears that out. I think it is hard to argue you are trying to combat voter fraud when it’s more likely you’ll get struck by lightning or a meteor—we did the math—than there be voter fraud in Texas,” when asked by Rep. Kelly about whether these restrictions are really about voter fraud or about shifting political tides.
Texas lawmakers asserted that Texas Republicans’ campaign to restrict voting access—and similar attacks on voters nationwide—underscore the need for Congress to immediately pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.
- Rep. Collier testified, “We have seen a concerted effort in various states to pass legislation that would limit access to the ballot ... what is happening in Texas is no different.” She later concluded that “unless we have federal intervention, we will continue to see the chipping away of our rights.”
- In closing, Rep. Thompson appealed to Congress by invoking the historic passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, stating “Lyndon Baines Johnson, 56-years ago, was the president who had enough integrity to give us a federal answer to the struggles of voting. I’m hoping that this Congress will do the same for us.”