HOUSTON – Amid a national outcry against proposed restrictive voting bills in many Republican controlled states, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo hosted a press conference Monday to voice their opposition to Texas House Bill 6 and Texas Senate Bill 7.
“These bills are going through on our watch,” said Turner. “What’s happening in the state of Texas, in the legislature, is wrong.”
“Soon enough, we will have taken the largest step back since Jim Crow,” said Hidalgo. “The dominoes of basic voting rights are starting to fall.”
Lt Governor Dan Parick also held a news conference in Austin this week, angrily defending the bills and accusing opponents of lying about whether they restricted or limited voting, and especially minority voters.
Among other items, Texas HB 6 would prohibit government officials from sending mail-in ballot applications to voters. In addition, it would require anyone providing help to a disabled voter at the polls to show an ID and share why they’re helping the disabled individual.
Texas SB 7 would require people to have legitimate reasons to vote by mail, get rid of drive-thru voting, and allow poll watchers to record video.
“Texas is on the list to potentially become a state known for Jim Crow tactics in 2021,” said Bishop James Dixon from the NAACP Houston.
“A poll watcher will be going around video recording,” said Turner. “Do you know how intimidating that is?”
Texas State Senator Bryan Hughes drafted Senate Bill 7.
“We’ve had situations where a poll worker says ‘x’ happened, and the election worker says that didn’t happen, and there’s no evidence,” said Hughes. “That’s the reason for allowing videos.”
“To those who say there’s no evidence of widespread voter fraud, my question to them is how much fraud is acceptable?” said Hughes. “How much is enough? Shouldn’t elections be fair? Shouldn’t they be accurate? That’s what the bill is about.”
Hughes, and Republican members of the Texas legislature, believe these proposed bills aren’t about preventing votes. SB 7 would also involve a tracking system for mail-in ballots and a type of voting “receipt.”
Judge Hidalgo strongly criticized the proposed legislation, issuing this statement:
“During the historic 2020 presidential election, Harris County instituted various innovative and groundbreaking methods to ensure that every eligible resident had the ability to exercise their constitutional rights to vote, such as tripling the number of Early Vote locations, establishing drive-thru voting, and expanding polling hours, including a one day 24- hour voting location. We had the highest turnout in a generation – almost 70% of registered voters voted. Now these advances in equity and access are under direct attack by proposed state legislation SB7 and related bills.”
“The proposed voting restrictions in SB7 are political theater that sadly harms voters of both parties,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. “Policies grounded in the Big Lie – the falsehood that mass voter fraud exists – are wrong and only harm our democracy. I’m saddened to see any legislative proposal designed to limit voting hours or access to the ballot box. Increasing access to voting shouldn’t be a partisan issue.”
“SB7 would restrict information on how to vote by mail, preventing the County from sending voters mail-in ballot applications. SB7 would also limit voting hours and would completely stop 24-hour voting, shutting out thousands of voters such as first responders and medical workers who work nontraditional hours. It would eliminate drive-through voting, encourage harassment of voters inside polling locations by allowing individuals to approach and record voters inside the polling location, and would lead to long lines by dictating Harris County’s distribution of voting machines.”
“We call on leaders, companies, and individuals to make their voice heard against bills that create obstacles to voting, under the guise of voter fraud, of which there is no substantial evidence.”
A handful of large companies have voiced their opposition to these proposed bills. American Airlines said in a statement, “As a Texas-based business, we must stand up for the rights of our team members and customers who call Texas home, and honor the sacrifices made by generations of Americans to protect and expand the right to vote…”
“Read the bill,” said Texas State Senator Paul Bettencourt. “There’s a lot of good things in it and not what’s being said. [We’re going to] fight for what is right, which is voter integrity. As Senator Hughes says, he’s trying to make it easy to vote, but hard to cheat. That’s what SB 7 is all about.”
“If by chance these bills get through, there is a price for voter suppression,” said Turner.
Neither of these proposed bills have been approved. They can still be changed or rejected.
— Article modified from a story by Matthew Seedorff, FOX26.