AUSTIN, Texas — Despite widespread condemnation from voting rights advocates and testimony from over a hundred Texans, Republicans rammed Senate Bill 7 through the state Senate Committee on State Affairs late last night. The voter suppression bill now heads to the full Senate for a final vote.
SB7 has been widely condemned as the latest in Texas Republicans’ voter suppression efforts. The bill includes extremist provisions that would make it harder to vote by mail, reduce early voting options, and require voters with disabilities to show a doctor’s note before receiving a mail ballot — moves that would in practice add a poll tax for voters with disabilities and disproportionately limit ballot-box access for voters with disabilities, Black and Brown voters and working Texans.
Even the bill’s author, Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola), acknowledged SB7 would put significant barriers between voters with disabilities and the ballot box and indicated he would be open to amending the bill to reduce those barriers, but the Committee passed the bill in its current form anyway.
Texas Democrats and a coalition of voting rights advocates have been fighting on all fronts to stop a rash of Republican voter suppression legislation from being passed in the Texas Legislature. Earlier this week, Democratic state senators forced a delay on this bill. On Thursday, after Republican Rep. Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park) shut down the testimony of Texans on SB7’s corollary in the House, House Bill 6, voting rights advocates and Democrats organized to host a citizens’ hearing, so that people who had driven hours to provide testimony could make their voices heard. Texas Democrats, advocates, and ordinary Texans again testified at the state Capitol Friday on the ways SB7 will disproportionately harm ballot-box access for Texans with disabilities and voters of color.
Laughably, committee members repeatedly tried to claim — in ignorance of over a century of history — that because Texas does not collect a voter’s race on its voter registration form, election officials don’t know voters’ races, and the bill could therefore not be discriminatory. Civil rights groups provided detailed analysis indicating the disparate impact this bill will have on Black and Latino Texans, but Republicans on the committee appeared undeterred from stripping voting access from those Texans.
Texas Democratic Party Vice Chair Dr. Carla Brailey issued the following statement:
“Texas Republicans are hellbent on cutting Texans off from their right to vote, and the reason is simple: they know that if every eligible voter has the chance to make their voice heard, we will vote them out. Senate Bill 7 is a disgrace that echoes the Jim Crow-era voter suppression laws targeting Black and Latino communities, as well as voters with disabilities. This is an outrage, and every concerned Texan must act right now to call on our state senators not to pass this damaging bill into law.
“What Texas Republicans are doing falls right in line with what Republicans are doing around the country — trying to shut down the voices of Americans. This past week, Georgia passed voter suppression legislation so blatant it would be laughable if it weren’t so tragic. When the Georgia governor signed this bill into law, he had a portrait of a former plantation hanging behind him in the background. You don’t need to read between the lines to see who Republicans are targeting. The hate is there for all to see.
“If Texas Republicans pass these heinous bills, Texans will know exactly who is trying to silence them — and we will only get louder. No matter what barriers Republicans push through, we will crawl over broken glass to make our voices heard at the ballot box. We will not be silenced.
“As President Biden said of the new Georgia law, ‘If you have the best ideas, you have nothing to hide…. Let the people vote.’ Our vote is our voice.”
Texas State Senator and State Affairs Committee Member Beverly Powell issued the following statement:
“The Committee heard hours of testimony Friday evening about the harmful impacts SB7 and other bills would have on Texans, especially people of color, voters with disabilities, veterans and working Texans. What I didn’t hear was a compelling case for the problem these bills solve or the Texans they would help.
“These bills will not help Texans — they will make it harder for Texans to take part in the democratic process and harder to have a say in shaping their communities and future. I urge all Texans to get involved in fighting for their right to vote.”
Texas Democratic Party Voter Protection Director Rose Clouston issued the following statement:
“With SB7 and HB6, Republicans are continuing their relentless assault on Texans’ constitutional right to vote. An attack on our right to vote is an attack on our communities and our future. I could not be more proud of how ferociously Democrats and our allies are fighting back.
“Republicans could not be bothered to act when Texans were freezing in their homes last month and losing loved ones to COVID-19 this past year. But when it comes to stopping Texans from voting, Republicans are firing on all cylinders. The legislature was out of session throughout all of 2020, but Republicans stayed at the Capitol until nearly midnight last night to strip Texans’ right to vote. Republicans know the writing is on the wall, and they are trying to cling to power the only way they can: by stopping voters of color, Texans with disabilities, working people, and young Texans from voting. But the GOP will not stop us from making our voices heard. We won’t let them.”