Vote-Suppressing Texas Republican Briscoe Cain Just Muscled Senate Bill 7 Through Committee

AUSTIN, Texas — On Thursday, Texas Republicans on the House Elections Committee ducked transparency norms in order to greenlight a shadowy version of voter suppression bill Senate Bill 7 (SB 7) — clearing a path to move the bill through the legislature and strip away Texans’ voting rights behind closed doors.

In a blatant attempt to force the voter suppression bill through the House, Committee Chair Rep. Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park) raised SB 7 without giving legislators advance notice, substituted the language of House Bill 6 (HB 6) into the titular SB 7 without giving legislators time to read through the bill, and disallowed public discussion and testimony from concerned Texans, as is customary. If Cain succeeds and the full House passes SB 7, a handful of Republican legislators will be able to pull the worst parts of SB 7 and HB 6 together behind closed doors and pass them through the legislature — without the House having heard testimony on many of the bill’s harmful, illegal, racist provisions.

Voting rights advocates, Democrats, and a broad coalition of allies sounded the alarm Thursday at the state Capitol during a press conference organized by MOVE Texas. Democratic legislators continue to fight tooth and nail to stop SB 7 and HB 6, which represent the worst attack on voting rights in our state since the Jim Crow era. The bills include blatant provisions to gut the voting rights of communities of color, voters with disabilities, and working Texans — including slashing voting hours and locations and clearing the way for Jim Crow-style voter intimidation. Now, if Cain manages to duck scrutiny through skirting House procedures, advocates fear the most harmful pieces of these bills will be compiled and passed into law.

Unfortunately, that was not enough voter suppression for one hearing, and the committee also considered SB 1340. This bill would require many Texans to provide documentary proof of citizenship before being registered to vote, confuse and lengthen the time between when a voter submits their registration form and when they can vote, and enshrine into law parts of Texas’ failed illegal voter purge from 2019. Public testimony highlighted many problems with the bill — not least of all how it violates the National Voter Registration Act, thus flying in the face of federal law. Looking at other states that have attempted similar schemes, such as Kansas, this bill could disenfranchise over 10 percent of new would-be registrants and would result in costly legal battles.

Texas Democratic Party Voter Protection Director Rose Clouston issued the following statement:

“Texas Republicans have already introduced the most racist, harmful voter suppression bills our state has seen since Jim Crow, in the form of House Bill 6 and Senate Bill 7. Now, Rep. Briscoe Cain is trying to cherry-pick all the worst parts of these terrible bills and pass them through the Texas Legislature without ever giving House lawmakers time to properly scrutinize this legislation, and without giving Texans a chance to give testimony on what’s in this bill.

“These are some of the shadiest moves yet from a party hellbent on slashing our voting rights. Republicans have decided to do the work of voter suppression in the shadows, ignoring their constituents’ concerns and experiences. They are abandoning normal procedures because it would be inconvenient for them to hear the outpouring of condemnation from everyone who believes in the foundation of our democracy — voting rights.

“We have to continue to ask why Republicans are trying to fix a voting system that isn’t broken. There is only one reason: Republicans know that if they let Texans vote conveniently and freely, Texans won’t choose them.

“We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: we will not be silenced. Texans have already spoken loud and clear to say these racist bills aren’t welcome in our state. A massive coalition of advocates and Texans is fighting to stop these bills, and businesses and corporations are on our side. This is a brazen attempt to rob Texans of their right to vote, and it’s wrong, racist and illegal. We will keep fighting, and we will win.”