Texas House Democrats made their case for federal action to protect voting rights last Thursday. Reps. Senfronia Thompson of Houston, Diego Bernal of San Antonio, and Nicole Collier of Dallas testified before the House Oversight Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties that sweeping election law changes in HB 3 would disproportionately hurt the voting rights of African-American and Latino populations. Rep. Travis Clardy, R-Nacogdoches, also testified remotely and denied the bill infringed on voting rights. Republican members of Congress pushed for the Democratic lawmakers to return to Texas so the special session could continue.
Texas Democrats detailed the ways they say the Republican-backed legislation would make it harder for many Texans to vote, including provisions in the bills that are aimed at discouraging people from helping older voters and voters with language barriers to cast ballots; eliminating 24-hour and drive-thru voting; and cutting some polling locations.
The proposed legislation also expands what partisan poll watchers are able to do in polling places while restricting elections officials’ ability to deal with those who are committing crimes. Democrats say this likely will lead to more voter intimidation in a state that has a long history of intimidating African-American and Latino voters.
When Rep. Pete Sessions of Waco accused Texas Democrats of violating their constituents’ rights by breaking quorum and exaggerating the impact of the voting bills, Thompson said, “You’re damn right I left Texas, and I’m glad I did. You know why I left, Pete? I left Texas to give my people a right to be able to vote without them being infringed upon. I am the voice of my constituents, and if I have to walk to Washington, D.C., to get you to hear what I have to say, to fight for my constituents, I’ll use any means necessary to get my point over.”