Moving Testimony Emerges As Texans Are Finally Heard on Voter Suppression Bill HB6

AUSTIN, Texas — On Thursday, Texans finally had the chance to share their testimony on Republican voter suppression bill House Bill 6 in the Texas House — a week after Texas Republican Rep. Briscoe Cain canceled scheduled testimony due to an alleged procedural error.

Together with its corollary in the Texas Senate, Senate Bill 7, HB6 represents the worst voter suppression legislation our state has seen since Jim Crow. House Bill 6 would put up barriers to voting by mail and force elections officials to allow disruptive poll watchers in polling places — clearing the way for discriminatory voter intimidation. With Republicans across the South launching an all-out assault on voting rights, the bill is a flagrant attempt to silence the voices of Black and Latino voters.

After traveling from all over the state last week to talk about how House Bill 6 will affect their communities, Texans were prevented from sharing their testimony on the Republican voter suppression bill. Democrats and voting rights allies quickly organized a citizens hearing, headed by House Elections Committee Vice-Chair Rep. Jessica Gonzalez, so that Texans could make their voices heard. Yesterday, the official hearing in the House finally took place. Texans once again drove from far and wide to speak at the Capitol, sharing moving testimony about the harm this voter suppression effort will do to communities across Texas.

The following is a selection of the testimony Texans shared in the House yesterday:
Note: All timestamps are from the Elections Committee hearing recording beginning at 12:16pm on April 1, 2021

Rose Clouston, Voter Protection Director, Texas Democratic Party: “I assure you the poll watcher provisions are solutions in search of a problem…. Our poll watchers are trained to observe the election to ensure that voters’ rights are protected and that every eligible voter can cast a ballot. And that’s the thing that we’re missing from a lot of this conversation. We’ve centered the poll watchers, not the voters. And we’re concerned about [the poll watchers’ rights], but really the rights we give poll watchers are in service of the voters and in service of the election themselves, making sure that the eligible voters that are there are able to vote. And I think that this conversation has been really derailed, focusing on the wrong thing.” (~11:17:05-11:17:55)

Cassandra Carter, representing Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.: “We believe this bill meets the classic definition of voter suppression…. We recognize that these tactics are not as blatant as the beatings, lynchings, jailings and intimidation used in the past, but while subtle, they are just as dangerous to communities of color. Our ask is simple: we want fair, accessible and free elections for all eligible Texans.” (~13:17:15)

Isabel Longoria, Harris County Election Administrator: “As the person in charge of actually running elections in Harris County and a former House staffer, I can tell you House Bill 6 would not help us make the elections safe or accessible…. This bill is rooted in a lie: the false and dangerous idea that our elections are rigged and Texans are cheaters, while failing to address real opportunities that could expand voter access, things like online voter registration, user friendly mail ballot designs, and mandated state trainings for poll watchers.” (~14:36:09)

Linda Jan Lewis on behalf of the Texas NAACP: HB 6 is “a racist assault on baby boomers” who are the majority of those serving as our poll workers. “This bill is going to provide free range for people to come to insult, to intimidate, to watch over, and to actually put in jeopardy” most of our election workers. “There are people saying they will not work in [upcoming] elections because at $10 an hour, they don’t want to be in a position to pay a fine or go to jail if they make a mistake.” (~9:42:26 – 9:58:19)

James Slattery, Senior Staff Attorney, Texas Civil Rights Project: “Texas has long been a multi-racial state; it has not been a multi-racial democracy.” (7:43:45)

Nina Perales, Vice President of Litigation, MALDEF: HB 6 “invades the privacy of limited English proficient voters who have the right to assistance in casting their ballots… and would invite vigilantism by poll watchers, who would be allowed to remain in the polling place even if they were intimidating voters and interfering with the casting of ballots…. The history of voter intimidation in this state is of African-American and Latino voters. There is no question about that. And many people will be deterred from voting if they think someone is going to follow them around a polling place and watch them vote.” She also detailed violations of federal law. (~5:39:40 & 5:44:15)

Jeffrey Clemmons on behalf of Austin College Student Commission and Huston–Tillotson University NAACP: “Some of the provisions in the bill, I think, are going to make college students less likely to want to be things like poll workers, or even show up to the polls…. [Instead,] we could implement a robust civic education [program]…. That would go much further and a longer way to instill confidence in our elections in our young people and people across the state of Texas.” (~14:15:00)

Lauren Sullivan, Young County Election Administrator: “I might be looking for a career in used car sales because it sounds like they may have a better reputation than election administrators,” after hearing the 18 hours of testimony on HB 6. “Please remember, in making legislation that targets some of these things that you see in large, very urban counties… They’re often quite detrimental and quite hard for rural counties…. Rural counties have a hard time adhering to things that Harris and Travis and Dallas County can do. We don’t have the funding. We don’t have the people. We don’t have the room in our courthouses.” (~14:28:25)