On National MSNBC Townhall, Texas Democratic Lawmakers Make the Urgent Case for Federal Voting Rights Protections

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas House Democratic lawmakers took part in a town hall live on MSNBC Monday evening to discuss the fight to protect voting rights not only in Texas but across the country.

Texas Democrats have the attention of the entire United States as they continue meeting with key federal leaders, including Vice President Kamala Harris and Members of the U.S. Congress, to encourage the passage of much-needed federal voting rights legislation to protect the right to vote in all 50 states.

The following are quotes from the town hall:

Texas House Democratic Caucus Chair Chris Turner: “This special session was poisoned from the onset. It’s against the backdrop of a Governor who tried to defund the entire legislative branch of government because he didn’t get everything he wanted, and we don’t live in a dictatorship. We live in a democracy, and the governor is not a dictator….We came to Washington because Congress and the President are the only people who can help stop this attack on our democracy. And that’s why we’re urging the Senate to pass strong federal civil rights legislation. We urge the Senate to embrace the elegant solution proposed by Majority Whip Jim Clyburn to carve out voting rights from the filibuster, and our caucus is looking forward to meeting with Majority Whip Clyburn tomorrow. We also hope that they’ll pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, because we need a strong Voting Rights Act to protect Texas voters.”

Rep. Jessica González: “There are several provisions in the bill that are egregious, but I want to speak to the provisions that involve partisan poll watchers — provisions that empower untrained poll watchers to roam freely in a room, and are at the same time shrinking the ability of a poll worker to control their behavior….What Republicans are doing is not only making the hoops smaller, but they’re also trying to pick who the referees are.”

Rep. Diego Bernal: “There’s a provision in [Texas Republicans’ anti-voter bill] that essentially criminalizes the practice of helping your neighbor, helping your friend, helping your mom or your grandmother….They’re criminalizing what we’ve done in our community for a long time….They are taking away everyday access and making it harder. That is a hallmark of voter suppression throughout history.”

House Democratic Dean Senfronia Thompson: “We’re experiencing a fight of our lives to be able to cast a vote and have a say in a democracy, and we should have a right. It is a situation where enough is enough….We are Americans like everybody else, and we should have the same privileges as everyone to go and cast our votes. Intimidation? You can call it any name you want — it’s still intimidation when it comes down to trying to make people feel like they are doing something wrong to the extent that they will walk out of the place and not cast the vote. And that’s wrong, it was wrong then, it was wrong in my grandmother’s time, and it’s still wrong today.”

Rep. John Bucy: “The fight for voting rights is a family affair in my household….You know, we’ve had some very impactful meetings and something that Senator Warren told us continues to resonate with me. She said, ‘Democracy is not a given. It is the responsibility of every generation to fight for it.’ That’s why Texas Democrats are here in D.C.”

Rep. Erin Zwiener: “The great thing about having [my daughter] with me [in D.C.] is that she reminds me why I do this work….I want her to grow up in a world where the United States of America is still a democracy, where every single vote counts and is valued, and every American has the ability to cast that vote. Every generation does have a responsibility to expand access to the ballot to more eligible voters. Right now we are at risk of going backwards, of going back on our promise of democracy, and I want her to know she was part of the fight to protect it.”

Rep. Gene Wu: “We’re sacrificing a lot more than just time away from our families, but all of that sacrifice is worth it. It’s worth it to protect Texans, it’s worth it to fight for the American dream, and it’s worth it to make sure that we have a future.”

Rep. Victoria Neave: “There is no doubt in my mind that we are aligned with [Senator Manchin] on the need for national standards to protect our precious right to vote. We know that our communities have the power to shape the trajectory of our nation. He understands that as a former Secretary of State. He understands the sense of urgency for us and our mission. We shared with him the fact that there are powerful forces in Texas right now trying to roll back our rights, but we know that the power of the people is stronger. So we’re thankful to him for his time and to the thousands of people who are raising their voices, or speaking out because we left that meeting with hope.”

Rep Toni Rose: “Senator Manchin definitely understands the civil rights aspect of [voter suppression]. During our meeting, I would say, the first three-fourths of the meeting he spoke and gave us his point of view, and he was very supportive of our voting rights work.”

Rep Jarvis Johnson: “[Abbott] is willing to defund not only the sergeants at arms, who are officers, but all staff that works at the Capitol — simply because we as Democrats did not do what he wanted us to do. We’re not here as his delegates. We’re here to represent our constituents.”

Mexican American Legislative Caucus Chair Rafael Anchía: “The Texas Legislature has been found to have intentionally discriminated against the voting rights of Texans, including Latinos and African Americans, ten times by three different federal courts, during the last decade alone. This isn’t something you read about in old-timey textbooks or see in Super 8…It’s happening to us right now.”

“What we’re seeing today is just a continuation of Republican attacks in Texas on the voting rights of Latinos and we’re done with it, we have to fight.”

Texas Legislative Black Caucus Chair Nicole Collier: “Too often we’re looking for obvious signs of suppression, but suppression doesn’t have to be obvious. It’s little things like long lines, empowering untrained partisan poll watchers, moving your polling location, changing the hours that the polls are open….Voting doesn’t have to be hard — but it should be fair and free. But the truth is, when they can’t win voters, they change the rules.”