Texas Democrats and Voting Rights Advocates Host Citizens Hearing on House Bill 6 in TX Capitol After Republicans Shut Out Texans’ Testimony

Republicans adjourned Thursday’s planned House hearing on HB6, a voter suppression bill, without allowing Texans to give testimony as promised.

AUSTIN, Texas — Thursday, after Rep. Briscoe Cain, Republican Chair of the House Elections Committee, adjourned a Texas House hearing on House Bill 6 without allowing Texans to give testimony as scheduled, a coalition of voting rights advocates held a citizens’ hearing in the Capitol rotunda to help Texans make their voices heard.

More than one hundred Texans came to testify at the Capitol, some driving up to ten hours to do so. However, with a last-minute early adjournment of the hearing, Republicans shut out this testimony from citizens. The Texas Democratic Party and other voting rights advocates on the ground organized quickly to make sure Texans could share their testimony on a bill that will affect the voting rights of millions of people across the state. HB 6 would put up barriers to voting by mail and force elections officials to allow disruptive poll watchers in polling places — a move that could easily foster discriminatory voter intimidation. Advocates have condemned the bill as a blatant assault on voting rights.

Texas House Democrats, Texas Freedom Network, Texas Rising, the Texas Civil Rights Project, Common Cause Texas, the Children’s Defense Fund, the Texas Democratic Party, and other allies worked together to hold the Citizens Hearing and uplift the testimony that Republicans tried to suppress.

Below is a selection of quotes from speakers who gave heartfelt testimony:

Rep. Jessica Gonzalez, House Elections Committee Vice-Chair: “We’re here for only one reason — each and every one of you, each and every one of us — because your vote matters.  We are going to fight tooth and nail to make sure our vote counts.”

Chris Hollins, Texas Democratic Party Vice-Chair for Finance and former Harris County Clerk: “The committee that put forward this bill does not include a single Black Texan. If you think that’s an accident, I have news for you…I wasn’t able to testify today because of Republican incompetence. Republican incompetence is not new…but today, Republican incompetence silenced the voices of Texans who came to testify. While that was [allegedly] done by accident, their intention is to silence the voices of millions of us.”

Chair of Legislative Black Caucus, Rep. Nicole Collier (HD-95): “Today was further evidence of the GOP’s efforts to silence our voices. Today was another effort to shut us up. To prevent us from being heard. And we will not allow it…I’m proud of my colleagues for working together to make sure our voices are heard.”

Rep. John Bucy (HD-136): “At the heart of it, these bills will make it harder for people with disabilities, for seniors, to vote. Black and Brown individuals are being targeted at a higher level by these bills.”

Former Congressman Beto O’Rourke: “Our elections and our ability to participate are already on the brink, and it’s about to get much worse unless we keep up the fight…There’s a better chance you will be struck by lightning than participate in voter fraud in this state. This is about trying to stop the voices of our fellow Texans.”

Rose Clouston, Texas Democratic Party’s Voter Protection Director: “Folks have been here since 7am this morning to fight against HB 6 and tell Republican members we won’t stand for their anti-voting measures — we’re going to stand for democracy. There are dozens more people here to testify and I’m glad they’re on my side. Rep. Cain shut this meeting down because he’s afraid of our opposition. But we’re not going to shut up. All Texans need to be given the opportunity to participate at the ballot box, so we can vote these folks out who tried to shut us down.”

Stephanie Gomez, Common Cause Texas: “House Bill 6 stands in opposition to our democracy. It serves no purpose but to limit who has the ballot in Texas.”

Emily Eby, Texas Civil Rights Project: “This bill is not the way to protect Texans with disabilities. The way to protect Texans with disabilities is to take down these barriers and to listen to people with disabilities and have them lead the way when it comes to protecting their vote.”

Mary Duty, McLennan County Democratic Party: “Voter suppression is real. These bills take everything we’ve fought for and it weaponizes poll watchers so they can intimidate people. It’s beyond description what these bills will do. Our son served in Iraq. Women and men there would walk miles through minefields to be able to vote. We put boys in the ground to protect their right to vote. Now, we are watching our own state becomes repressive of our vote. But they got scared today, folks. They saw what we can do.”

Denisce Palacios, Texas Freedom Network: “I am tired of this government overextending its power to suppress our constitutional rights. House Bill 6 would strip voting protections and put up additional barriers to exercising our rights….This bill endangers our democracy. Republicans love to talk about voting as a privilege. But it’s a right.”