Texas Democrats Say Republican Voting Bill Marks “Dark Day for Democracy” | Texas
Texas Democrats called Sunday “one of the darkest days” for American democracy, after Republicans pushed one of the most restrictive voting measures in the United States to the brink of the law, rushing the bill in the State Senate in the middle of the night.
Senate Bill 7 was passed on party lines around 6 a.m., after eight hours of questioning by Democrats who had virtually no way of stopping it. It was due to receive a vote in the House later Sunday before reaching Governor Greg Abbott, who was due to sign it.
During closed-door negotiations, Republicans added wording that could make it easier for a judge to overturn an election. They also postponed the start of the Sunday vote, when many black practitioners went to the polls. The measure would also eliminate drive-thru voting and 24-hour voting centers, both introduced last year in Harris County, a Democratic stronghold.
Critics say such measures suppress the participation of minorities likely to vote Democratic. On Sunday morning, Hakeem Jeffries of New York, a member of the Democratic leadership in the United States House, called SB7 “shameful.”
“Republicans in Texas and across the country clearly want to make it harder to vote and steal an election,” he told State of the Union CNN. “This is the only way I can interpret the voter suppression epidemic that we are seeing spreading from Georgia to Arizona to Texas and across the country.”
At a press conference held by the Texas Democratic Party, national figures including former Congressman Beto O’Rourke, former Housing Secretary Julián Castro and his brother Joaquin Castro, sitting Congressman , sought to sound the alarm.
“This is going to make it more difficult for the average Texan to come out and vote, whether he is a Republican or a Democrat,” said Julián Castro. “But it’s clearly aimed at people of color, black Texas and Hispanic.
“The Republican Party is afraid because it knows this state is changing. Senate Bill 7 is an attempt by the Republican Party to retain power at everyone’s expense. And we can’t let it hold.
Michael McCaul, a United States House Republican from Texas, told CNN he believed the law “could be more of an optical problem, rebuilding trust with the American people. In my state, you actually believe there was a huge fraud. “
There was not. Texas has only one pending electoral fraud case stemming from the 2020 election. Nonetheless, this is the last major battleground in Republican efforts to tighten election laws, prompted by Donald Trump’s lie that the presidential election was stolen. Joe Biden on Saturday compared the Texas bill to electoral changes in Georgia and Arizona as “an attack on democracy.”
Since Trump’s defeat, at least 14 states have passed restrictive voting laws, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. He counted nearly 400 bills across the country.
The vote in the Texas Senate came shortly after a final version of the bill was made public. Republicans have suspended rules that normally prohibit voting on a bill that has not been posted for 24 hours. Democrats protested.
The bill would empower pro-election observers by allowing better access to polling stations and threatening criminal penalties against officials who restrict their movement. Another provision allows a judge to overrule the result of an election if the number of fraudulent votes could change the result, whether or not it has been proven that the fraud affected the result.
Election officials would face penalties, including felony charges for sending postal ballot requests to people who did not request them. The Texas District and County Attorneys Association has counted at least 16 new, expanded, or improved crimes.
Republicans are also considering banning Sunday voting before 1 p.m. in what critics call a “souls at the polls” attack, an exit-voting tactic used by black congregations across the country and dating back to the civil rights. Asked why the Sunday vote couldn’t start earlier, Texas Republican Bryan Hughes said, “Election officials want to go to church too.”
State Representative Nicole Collier, chair of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus, was one of three Democrats chosen to negotiate the final bill. None signed. She said she saw a draft around 11 p.m. Friday that was different from the one received earlier and was asked to sign the next morning.
Colin Allred, a US representative from Dallas, said Sunday’s press conference was “one of the darkest days” for democracy in America.
“It’s not a law,” he said. “It’s discrimination.”
Chuck Schumer of New York, the leader of the Democratic majority in the US Senate, has said he will take the For the People Act, a federal measure to protect voting rights, to the prosecution next month. But he’s unlikely to beat the filibuster, the 60-vote threshold needed to defeat the Republican minority.
In a moving appeal for the For the People Act, O’Rourke cited the example of civil rights legislation under President Lyndon Johnson, a Texan, in the 1960s.
Calling the new federal bill “a voting rights law for our day,” he said passing it “would protect the sanctity of the ballot box and ensure that no state legislature can prevent us from voting. So I hope that after this good fight in Texas, we will direct all our energy and all our focus on our friends in Washington DC, who, as they did in 1965, can save American democracy.
With centrist Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona opposed to filibuster reform, it seems unlikely.