Voter suppression bill makes its way out of House committee

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House Bill 6, one of two leading voter suppression bills being pushed by Texas Republicans, made its way out of committee Thursday morning. 

It follows 21 hours of testimony by critics in opposition to the legislation, as well as a vocal campaign by Texas-based companies against the bill and its Senate counterpart. 

If passed, HB 6 would prohibit election officials from distributing mail ballot applications unless specifically requested by voters, make it more difficult to assist disabled Texans in voting by requiring a submission form, and dangerously empower campaign or party-picked poll watchers in voting locations.

Democrats, civil rights, and voter advocacy groups have described the legislation as a new Jim Crow-style attack on Texan voting rights. 

In a statement reacting to the passage, Texas Right to Vote Chair Luci Baines Johnson, the daughter of President Lyndon B. Johnson, said the bill was an affront to the Voting Rights Act.

“In the 60s, my father saw measures like poll taxes and literacy tests for what they were, an attempt to deny voting rights to people of color,” Johnson said. “The proposed measures we are seeing today use different tactics, but the goal remains the same: to deny access to the ballot to certain groups of people.”

In a press release, Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher (D-Houston) denounced the legislation and called on the U.S. Senate to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, a bill that would strengthen the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and ensure that any election-related changes in states with a history of voter suppression (like Texas) are subject to federal oversight first.

MOVE Texas Action Fund Executive Director H. Drew Galloway called the legislation unpopular and anti-democratic. “Make no mistake: everybody from the business community to the disabled community opposed this dangerous and undemocratic piece of legislation,” he said.

Last week, Senate Bill 7, the more restrictive bill of the two pieces of legislation, passed the Texas Senate. 

No evidence has been produced of widespread voter fraud. Texas Office of the Secretary of State elections chief Keith Ingram recently testified that the general election was both “smooth and secure.” And in 2020, the Houston Chronicle reported that Texas Attorney Ken Paxton found only 16 cases of voter fraud in the general election out of more than 11 million votes.

Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

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