AUSTIN (KXAN) — Two weeks after Texas House Democrats left the state to block a Republican-pushed elections overhaul bill, Democrats in the state Senate are explaining what they’re doing back in Austin to do the same.
House Democrats staged the protest and flight to Washington D.C., on July 12 — it was their last-ditch effort to stop a bill they say is voter suppression masked as “election integrity.” Particularly, Democrats allege the GOP is aiming to restrict communities of color from voting.
The bill stemmed from the previous Senate Bill 7, which was defeated by another Democratic walk-out. However, Senate Bill 1 received its first hearings two weeks ago. Together, these bills would limit early voting hours, ban drive-thru and mail-in ballot drop boxes and allow partisan poll watchers to record voters who receive help filling out ballots. It would also become a crime for local elections officials to encourage voting by mail.
Despite no proof of widespread fraud in Texas’ 2020 election, state Republicans have honed in on “election integrity” as a major party platform.
Senate Democrats said they’re standing right alongside their House counterparts.
During a Wednesday briefing from the Texas Capitol, Sen. Carol Alvarado, the Senate Democratic Caucus chair, described the Republican bills as “Jim Crow-style” and assured that the Senate would be doing everything they can to stop them.
Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, directed a message at Republican lawmakers that the Democrats represent millions of constituents in a diverse state. Whitmire, the first-ranking member of the Caucus, also pointed directly to Gov. Greg Abbott, saying:
“Governor: you have a responsibility to represent our constituents as well as others… Governor Abbott, you haven’t had one Democratic senator in your office. You’ve spent more time with the governor of Florida than you have with these honorable members of the Senate and House.”Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston
Whitmire explained that House Democrats’ action in leaving the state was not something they wanted to do, but what they had to do to protect their constituents’ rights.
The Caucus also urged the U.S. Senate to pass its voter protection laws, which are currently stalled in the chamber.
‘People of color want…’
Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick responded to the Democrats’ comments and ongoing contention over the bills, saying that Democrats are “losing” grip on power and attempting to retain it by blocking the bills.
“People of color want a secure ballot process as well as Anglos,” Patrick said. “People of color want a mail-in ballot system that is easy but secure. The Democrats act as if — they flat out said it — we [Republicans] don’t want people of color to vote. Of course we do.”
Patrick cited GOP voter gains from communities of color in recent elections, proceeding to claim that people of color support Republican policies.
“People of color in the [south Texas] Valley want a secure border. People of color support Republican positions on a secure border all over the state and country. People of color support charter schools. People of color support funding the police and having a safe neighborhood. People of color support lower taxes,” said Patrick.
Patrick alleged that the Democratic party had denied people of color the vote for 100 years in the south. The statement appears to allude to Republican-passed Amendments in the early-mid 1900s. However, it doesn’t account for massive realignment of the parties since then — in addition to the Democratic party being the chief political party behind the Civil Rights movement.
“At the end of the day, this bill’s going to pass — pretty much in the form it’s in,” Patrick said. “Is it in August? Or September? October? Is it next February? Is it next June? This bill is going to pass because the people of Texas of all color want safe and secure elections.”