AUSTIN (Nexstar) — On Monday, interfaith leaders and civil rights advocates gathered at the Texas Capitol to call on state legislators to vote against election regulation bills they say would lead to voter suppression.
“We don’t have to title the bill ‘voter suppression’ for us to know that is what it does,” Texas NAACP President Gary Bledsoe began the press conference on Monday, explaining how Senate Bill 7 and House Bill 6 would disproportionately affect minority populations.
“When you require voting sites that have the same voting capacity in certain counties — whether they are urban or rural — it negatively impacts the urban community,” Bledsoe continued.
The bills would also enforce voting hours from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., ban drop-off mail-in ballot boxes and allow poll watchers to record voters suspected of fraud while receiving assistance filling out their ballots.
“It will not do to have partisan poll watchers intimidate voters with surveillance. It will not do to have the good faith efforts of election judges jeopardized,” Rabbi Neil Blum said at the conference, making his opposition of the bills clear.
The Texas Public Policy Foundation said more transparency is needed, because poll workers can be partisan, too.
“Senate Bill 7 and House Bill 6 try to clarify watchers are there as part of state law to ensure that local elections officials are actually following state law,” Chuck DeVore with TPPF said Monday.
State Republicans said the bills are designed to prevent voter fraud, not suppress voters.
“This bill is going to protect people’s votes and is not going to prevent anyone and stand in their way,” co-author of HB 6 Rep. Jacey Jetton explained Monday. “If it did, I wouldn’t be in favor of it.”
Republicans insist the bill is not a direct response to the 2020 election.
“We had these similar bills in 2015 and 2017,” Rep. Jetton explained, saying the legislature tries to pass different election security measures each session.
“These bills are a solution in search of a problem,” Democrat Rep. Ron Reynolds of Sugar Land argued said.
The idea behind the bills, according to Republicans, is to reinstate confidence in the election process and address inconsistencies in voting operations across the state that popped up during the pandemic. That includes many practices in Harris County, like drive-thru voting.
“I think it is important that if you move from Harris County to Fort Bend County, that the way that you vote in both places is the same. There should be minimum expectations,” Rep. Jetton said.
But Democrats said restoring faith should not mean more regulation.
“This should be how can we expand voting rights? How can we make voting more accessible?” Rep. Reynolds said.