On Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day by sharing a famous quote from the late civil rights leader and minister: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
The quote, now engraved in Washington D.C.’s MLK Memorial, comes from a sermon King delivered in 1959. By then, King was more than familiar with challenging times and the risks of advocating for civil rights in Jim Crow America.
Three years earlier his home in Montgomery, Alabama had been bombed with dynamite while his wife and newborn daughter were still inside. His family miraculously uninjured, King returned home to an upset crowd of supporters who he told to go home and not worry because, “we are not hurt and remember that if anything happens to me, there will be others to take my place.”
If Abbott genuinely wanted to honor King’s legacy, he would gather the legislature and scrap Senate Bill 1, a sweeping Trump-brained law that makes it more difficult to access the ballot box.
Just about every civil rights organization in Texas is suing the law, which went into effect in December. Already, the restrictive voting law has begun impacting Texas mail ballot applications, just one of the ways SB 1 has begun to disenfranchise voters.
On Thursday, the Travis County Clerk’s Office announced it had rejected about 50 percent of mail ballot applications. The office attributed the increased rate of rejections to Senate Bill 1, which requires mail ballot applicants to include either a Driver’s License number or last four digits of their Social Security number.
In Bexar County, election officials are rejecting mail-in ballot applications at a similar rate under the strict new law, according to the San Antonio Report. About half of the mail ballots were rejected on the first day officials began accepting them.
In Harris County, mail ballot applications were rejected roughly 16 percent of the time under the new rules, according to the Texas Tribune.
(Texans can check the status of their mail ballot application at the Texas Secretary of State’s website.)
The Department of Justice has filed two federal lawsuits against the law for violating the Voting Rights Act. The Justice Department is arguing that the new law adds barriers to voting and disenfranchises Texans with disabilities, the elderly and those with limited English proficiency.
At least 18 other states joined Texas in passing voting restrictions after the 2020 presidential election, led by Georgia, where the MLK-founded Southern Christian Leadership Conference has joined a legal fight against the state’s own restrictive voting law.
In Congress, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said Democrats will vote on two voting rights bills sometime this week. Their future is uncertain with two key senators still opposing a carve out to allow for a simple majority vote on the bills.
The push for federal voting rights legislation comes days after President Biden delivered a speech on the issue in Atlanta, Georgia where the Republican-led legislature has also made it more difficult to vote.
“Jim Crow 2.0 is about two insidious things: voter suppression and election subversion,” Biden said at the time. “It’s no longer about who gets to vote; it’s about making it harder to vote. It’s about who gets to count the vote and whether your vote counts at all.”