HOUSTON - Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo hosted a press conference Monday to voice their opposition to Texas House Bill 6 and Texas Senate Bill 7. Several local and state leaders were also in attendance.
"These bills are going through on our watch," said Turner. "What’s happening in the state of Texas, in the legislature, is wrong."
"Soon enough, we will have taken the largest step back since Jim Crow," said Hidalgo. "The dominoes of basic voting rights are starting to fall."
Among other items, Texas HB 6 would prohibit government officials from sending mail-in ballot applications to voters. In addition, it would require anyone providing help to a disabled voter at the polls to show an ID and share why they’re helping the disabled individual.
Texas SB 7 would require people to have legitimate reasons to vote by mail, get rid of drive-thru voting, and allow poll watchers to record video.
"Texas is on the list to be potentially become a state known for Jim Crow tactics in 2021," said Bishop James Dixon from NAACP Houston.
"A poll watcher will be going around video recording," said Turner. "Do you know how intimidating that is?"
On Monday, we interviewed Texas State Senator Bryan Hughes who drafted Senate Bill 7.
"We’ve had situations where a poll worker says "x" happened, and the election worker says that didn’t happen, and there’s no evidence," said Hughes. "That’s the reason for allowing videos."
We asked Hughes why these voting changes are necessary, if no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election was ever found.
"To those who say there’s no evidence of widespread voter fraud, my question to them is how much fraud is acceptable?" said Hughes. "How much is enough? Shouldn’t elections be fair? Shouldn’t they be accurate? That’s what the bill is about."
Hughes, and Republican members of the Texas legislature, believe these proposed bills aren’t about preventing votes. SB 7 would also involve a tracking system for mail-in ballots and a type of voting "receipt".
A handful of large companies have voiced their opposition to these proposed bills. American Airlines said in a statement, "…As a Texas-based business, we must stand up for the rights of our team members and customers who call Texas home, and honor the sacrifices made by generations of Americans to protect and expand the right to vote…"
"Read the bill," said Texas State Senator Paul Bettencourt. "There’s a lot of good things in it and not what’s being said. [We’re going to] fight for what is right, which is voter integrity. As Senator Hughes says, he’s trying to make it easy to vote, but hard to cheat. That’s what SB 7 is all about."
"If by chance these bills get through, there is a price for voter suppression," said Turner.
Neither of these proposed bills have been approved. They can still be changed or rejected.
"If you look at it stem to stern, it’s about making the system better," said Hughes. "I wish folks would look at the bill and not just generalize what the national democrats are saying, it’s disappointing."