Scathing Condemnation of SB 7 During Press Conference with Julián Castro, Colin Allred, Joaquin Castro, Beto O’Rourke, Carol Alvarado, Jessica González, and Lina Hidalgo

AUSTIN, Texas — Sunday, Texas Democrats came together in a virtual press conference to condemn racist, ableist, anti-voter bill SB 7, which cleared the Texas Senate in the early hours of Sunday morning. Republicans have relied on shady dealings at every step to push this bill through the legislature in a flagrant assault on the voting rights of Black and Brown Texans, voters with disabilities, and working Texans — drawing widespread outrage from Texans, Democrats, voting rights allies, civil rights advocates, the business community, and the Biden Administration. The bill still needs to clear the Texas House tonight before it can head to the Governor’s desk and become law.

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, Congressman Colin Allred, Congressman Joaquin Castro, Former Congressman Beto O’Rourke, Chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus Carol Alvarado, Texas House Elections Committee Vice-Chair Rep. Jessica González, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa, and Texas Democratic Party Voter Protection Director Rose Clouston discussed the most egregious aspects of the bill and next steps in the fight. The full recording is available here.

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro said the following: “This is a state of emergency for democracy in Texas. If Senate Bill 7 becomes law, it’s going to make it so much harder for everyday people in Texas to cast their ballot, especially communities of color, by doing things like making it harder for people with disabilities to vote. By undermining the ability of people who worship on a Sunday morning and then want to go and vote right after that to do so conveniently. By banning things like drive-thru voting and 24-hour voting that were tremendously successful in Harris County in 2020. This is gonna make it harder for the average Texan to get out and cast their ballot, whether they’re Republican or Democrat — but it is clearly aimed at people of color, at Black and Hispanic Texans. The Republican Party is running scared because they know that this state is changing, and they’re afraid of the consequences. Senate Bill 7 is an attempt by the Republican Party to hold onto their power at the expense of everybody else. And we can’t let it stand.”

Congressman Colin Allred said the following when asked about the portions of the bill that may be litigated: “I was a voting rights litigator, I’ve done [Voting Rights Act] Section 2 claims. It might be shorter to list what parts of this bill would NOT be challengeable under Section 2, because I think almost every provision has something in it that is clearly intentionally racially discriminatory — and that’s what we’re talking about here with Section 2 claims. Particularly the most egregious one, and we’ve mentioned it several times, is moving the early voting window from 1 to 9 on Sunday….There’s no rationale they can provide to indicate why it is in the state’s interest. To me, it’s so egregious, and I heard Senator West talking about this last night, how ridiculous it is that his constituents will be able to get a beer at 10am on Sunday, but they won’t be able to walk out of church and go to the polling place. It highlights how sloppy this legislation is and how intentional the discrimination is. And it will end up in court, and it will cost Texans millions of dollars — yes, of your tax dollars — in defending it.”

Congressman Joaquin Castro said the following: “This is a now-or-never moment for American democracy. And I urge my colleagues in the House of Representatives and also the United States Senators most especially, to look at what is going on in places like Arizona, Georgia, and Texas, and realize that Republicans keep moving to the extreme right, but they keep changing the law to keep winning. All we have to do to make it easier to vote is not change any law, we just have to change a custom: the Senate filibuster. If we don’t act now, then our democracy is not going to look the same, either in 2022 or 2024. We’re dealing with folks who have moved to the extreme right and the way they’re trying to win elections now is not by convincing more people that they’ve got great ideas or that they’re great at governing — it’s by keeping the people who disagree with them from showing up and casting a ballot.”

Former Congressman Beto O’Rourke said the following: “This is the toughest state in the Union in which to register and cast a ballot, bar none — and they’re going to make it even harder to vote….Back before LBJ was president, the state of Texas and Georgia and Florida used laws like these to keep some people — primarily Black people, Mexican-American people, communities of color, young people, old people — from being able to vote freely….And then you had LBJ and some extraordinary members of Congress, like Joaquin Castro, like Colin Allred, who stepped up and did the right thing and voted for the Voting Rights Act, which standardized elections across this country so that you could not prevent anybody who was an eligible voter from casting their ballot. That’s what we need right now. We’re counting on Congressman Allred and Congressman Castro and their colleagues and President Biden to pass the For the People Act in the United States Senate.”

Chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus Senator Carol Alvarado said the following: “This is Jim Crow 2.0. Last night was probably one of the lowest moments I’ve experienced in my legislative career….Let’s talk about transparency issues. Senator Powell was the only [Senate] Democrat on the conference committee, and she was completely shut out of the process — she didn’t get a draft of this large document until 11:30 the night before it was filed the next day at 9am. She wasn’t included in any discussions, nor were any of the concerns that she raised addressed. So from the beginning this was a rushed process, and there are provisions in this document that were not in either bill [originally passed by the House and Senate].”

Texas House Elections Committee Vice-Chair Rep. Jessica González said the following: “The whole process, this underhanded behavior, just goes to show what their real intent is behind this bill….This bill is massive, and for it to be rushed to the conferees, even rushed the day that it came to the floor…It’s an awful bill, but I’m hopeful that this underhanded behavior, the way that you know they undercut the process, will help us.”

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said the following: “We had record turnout this past November in Harris County. We were an incredible national model for what accessible and safe and secure elections look like. And it was Democrats and Republicans — with drive-thru voting, with 24 hour voting, with no evidence of voter fraud whatsoever, needless to say. But this bill does away with that 24-hour voting, drive-thru voting in particular is disproportionately used by voters of color, so it’s very transparent what their motivation is….What proponents of this bill are doing is weakening the core of our democracy…It’s very clear where these guys are coming from. They recognize that if they pander to the people who believe the election was stolen, that that’ll help them politically. But those political points that they might score — that doesn’t justify tearing down our democracy…If they make policy based on that, they’ll only cement this sense that American democracy is broken. You can’t go back from that.”

Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said the following: “All that’s going to happen as a result of this is we’re going to have to work a bit harder. People out there are going to have to take extra steps to make sure that the people they know, their sons and daughters and neighbors, their comadres and compadres, as we say in the Mexican-American community, are registered to vote and have their voices heard…So yes, they’re making it harder [to vote], but what they’re doing is they’re making it harder on themselves, because our folks are just not going to take this — they’re going to go out and fight even harder. They’re going to make sure that they get past all these obstacles. They’ve done it once before, and they’ll do it again.”

Texas Democratic Party Voter Protection Director Rose Clouston said the following: “This legislative session in Texas has been one of missed opportunities. We are reeling from a pandemic and a winter storm that have killed far too many of our neighbors, and the Republican-dominated legislature has done next to nothing about either of these crises. Instead, they’ve focused on spreading lies to stoke fear about our elections and targeted many vulnerable Texans. So unfortunately, I’m not surprised that on the second to last day of the legislative session, the last day that we have to pass those bills, we’re here in the wake of the State Senate casting its final vote on racist, ableist, anti-voter Senate Bill 7, and we’re awaiting the House taking up this bill today.”