On Eve of House Floor Vote on Anti-Voter Bills, Advocates Join Democrats To Discuss State of Voting Rights in Texas

AUSTIN, Texas — Today, on the eve of a House floor vote on anti-voter bill House Bill 6 (and likely Senate Bill 7), advocates and Democrats discussed the state of the fight for voting rights in Texas and the effects Republicans’ anti-voter legislation will have on Texans, particularly voters of color, if passed. Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund Vice President of Litigation Nina Perales and Texas Civil Rights Project Staff Attorney Emily Eby joined a conversation moderated by Texas Democratic Party Voter Protection Director Rose Clouston. The full recording is available here.

Rose Clouston said the following: “The theme of this legislative session is that Republicans are trying to keep winning elections the only way they know how: by preventing people from voting. You might think that a good strategy could be to propose great policies to help a lot of Texans, you know, like we see the President doing. But what we see from our Republican legislators is a constant assault on Texans’ basic rights and our democracy. One other important piece of context for this is that when, on the House floor tomorrow they consider House Bill 6, they are trying to basically merge House Bill 6 and Senate Bill 7 in this shady Frankenstein situation. They are trying to pass that tomorrow. Then behind closed doors, Republicans can consider the worst parts of both bills and combine them together.” (recording minute 6:22)

Emily Eby said the following: “The Texas Civil Rights Project has done some studies on the 2020 election in particular and some of the parts of these bills that would make it more difficult to vote in ways that communities of color predominantly used — especially the parts of SB 7 that are lurking under the surface, just waiting to come back up. Those parts include 24-hour voting being banned and drive-thru voting being banned, as well as a formula that applies only to counties with over 1 million people that would allocate polling places, essentially, in the whitest way they possibly can to keep those polling places out of communities of color….We know that in Harris County, communities of color used 24-hour voting and drive-thru voting services disproportionately to white folks. We also know that that allocation formula only applies to Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, and Austin, which are the largest urban centers in Texas and contain a lot of communities of color. So allocating polling places one way for them, and a different way for all the other counties, is very clearly targeted at voters of color — trying to make sure that the voting pool is as white as possible.” (recording minute 25:50)

Nina Perales said the following: “The first important thing that we would want people to know about HB 6 and SB 7 is they’re opening the door to vigilantes in the polling place. One of the worst parts of HB 6/SB 7 is the lifting of limits on poll watchers, and that taps into a long history of vigilante activity around minority voters who are trying to vote. Now under HB 6/SB 7, poll watchers would be allowed to roam freely throughout the polling place, to stand as close to voters as the poll watcher would deem necessary to observe the activities of the voter — checking in, going over to the voting booth, and casting the ballot. Poll workers, election judges and others would be criminalized under HB 6/SB 7 for, for example, trying to eject a poll watcher who’s being disruptive. So if a poll watcher starts screaming, yelling, arguing with a voter, laying down on the floor, banging pots and pans, poll workers would not be able to eject those individuals — that would be a crime. So that’s one provision of HB 6/SB 7 that we think is very pernicious with respect to minority communities, because Texas has a very long history of folks trying to stop minority voters from voting.” (recording minute 21:18)