AUSTIN (Nexstar) – Controversial election legislation is moving forward at the State Capitol. House Bill 6 advanced out of committee on a party line vote, and now waits for a vote on the House floor.
Democrats have criticized the bill, and others like it which tighten voting rules, as amounting to voter suppression. Some large businesses have issued statements against the bills.
“I have the phone numbers of several of those individuals,” House Speaker Dade Phelan said Wednesday, adding that he planned to call business leaders who have come out against HB 6. “I’m going to ask them to pull up House Bill 6 on their computers and point to me where in that bill they see voter suppression.
The bill would tighten restrictions on people helping disabled voters, and prohibit government officials from sending unsolicited mail-in ballot applications to voters, among other provisions.
State Rep. John Bucy (D-Cedar Park), a member of the House Elections Committee, says he’s particularly concerned with language in HB 6 that tightens rules for voters who need assistance with their ballot. Bucy said the current process for voters who get the assistance of a translator or reader is to check a box saying you had assistance. HB 6 requires a form to be filled out. Bucy is concerned people’s ballots will be ineligible if they are unaware of new processes.
“The result is that the ballot would be thrown out and those Texans who made that honest mistake would be disenfranchised from their right to vote,” Bucy said.
“I feel like it is a bill that addresses voter integrity,” Phelan said in defense of HB 6. “We saw a lot of irregularities last cycle, not necessarily fraud, but irregularities where certain counties kind of made up their own election law on a whim.”
The Speaker is confident that the bill will stand up to scrutiny. “I don’t see voter suppression in House Bill 6. And I think the debate will will bear that,” he concluded.
Phelan also addressed the state’s funding for security efforts along the border.
“We spend north of $800 million every session on border security when it’s not the state’s responsibility. It’s a federal responsibility. And it’s frustrating,” Phelan said. “I wish we had better communication with the federal government on what their long term plan is.”
Phelan said law enforcement along the border are apprehending record numbers of migrants coming into Texas, and he said the numbers have been growing each week.
“It stresses our resources along our border from the Rio Grande Valley all the way up to Del Rio, our healthcare, our public education, our criminal justice system, it stresses all of it, and it’s very expensive,” Phelan said.
“It’s quite frankly, again, a humanitarian crisis that you know, Texas would like better direction from our federal government,” Phelan said.