Tarrant County voters wonder why lawmakers want to make it harder to participate in elections

Brian Dixon, a psychiatrist and leader of Fort Worth’s Historic Southside, said he continues to misunderstand that elected civil servants are working for their best interests, but opponents vote. If you knew it wasn’t when you considered two bills that were afraid to curb.

“I’m tired. I’m exhausted,” said black Dixon. “And because I have to spend time again in the day to stop what I’m doing, you basically want to make sure my voting rights aren’t deprived. I know I’m trying to monitor my back, it’s tiring. They need to stop. “

The Texas Senate passed Senate Bill 7, a broad bill related to the state’s voting process, early Thursday morning.

The bill limits the extension of early voting and prohibits drive-through voting. It will also prohibit local election authorities from voting by mail to those who did not request it.Pollsters affiliated with political parties or candidates are usually allowed to videotape their activities...

A few hours later, the House Committee began considering a similar proposal, House Bill 6.

“What does it say when we go through the power grid, an absolute disaster, and we’re not talking about it, we’re talking about absentee ballots from safe and secure elections. Is it? ” Dixon said. “What does it say to blacks who want change and want to hear? It says that most blacks I’m talking about have racism here as well.”

Proponents say the measure is intended to strengthen election integrity, which is Greg Abbott’s priority, but opponents say the bill is a barrier to voters, disabilities and polls. Claims to curb the voting of young voters who have long faced.

Voting advocates said the bill was Texas’ latest attempt to make voting difficult in states where it was already difficult to cast ballots. Texas regularly appears in court on issues related to voter identification and re-electoral districts. Opponents say these measures are also likely to lead to proceedings.

“Our vote is unwelcome and our vote is not desired is served on a platter,” said LULAC Fort Worth spokesman Daniel Sanches.

The bill was issued during the 2020 elections as fraud claims were amplified, but experts say the elections were the safest in history and there was no evidence of widespread fraud.Texas Attorney General’s Office Over 22,000 staff hours spent on fraudulent voting cases In 2020, but according to a December survey by the Houston Chronicle, only 16 cases were resolved.

“I wish I could agree that there were too many fraudulent elections,” said Senator R-Mineola’s Senator Brian Hughes, presenting the bill on the Senate floor.

Hughes argued that the law would help build confidence in the ballot box.

“We want people to know that when they vote, the votes are counted accurately and the system is fair and transparent,” he said. “If people don’t have that confidence, they stop participating and everyone loses when that happens.”

Make voting easier, not harder

Dixon, president Historical South Side Neighborhood Association, Described a system that has little support for voters. Many have obligations like work that makes it difficult to allocate the time needed to vote.

“And it’s used against them by saying,’Oh, low turnout.’ If you want to make early voting more difficult, and if you add a hurdle, it only makes it worse, “he said.

As the Texas people headed for polls during the coronavirus pandemic, there were some efforts to make voting easier during the November 2020 general election. Throughout the state, the direct early voting period has been extended by six days to free up space for voters.

However, some policies, especially in Harris County, Houston, faced fierce backlash and legal struggles. This included drive-through voting, 24-hour voting, and the county’s efforts to send voting applications by mail to all registered voters blocked in court. All measures are prohibited under the proposed law.

Voting by mail has never been easier for Natalie Renfro. She is tech-savvy at the age of 23, but struggles to ensure that her ballots reach Texas from Missouri while voting as a student at Missouri State University in Springfield. I did.

Renfro, who grew up in Keller, said voting was reasonably difficult. Bills passing through the Texas Parliament in connection with election procedures are a source of concern for absentee ballots.

“Votes need to be accessible,” she said. “That’s right. We can’t put a barrier on our right to vote.”

House Bill 6 would make it a felony for state prisons for civil servants to vote unilaterally by mail. The crime can result in imprisonment of up to two years and a fine of $ 10,000. League of Women Voters, an independent organization that regularly distributes applications for voting by mail, Said Worried volunteers may be barred from handing out materials.

Pamela Young, a community organizer working with United Fort Worth, fears the bill may discourage people from becoming pollsters.

Election advocates have expressed concern that measures that limit pollsters’ ability to eliminate pollsters and empower pollsters to record videos could lead to voter intimidation. ..

“Public polls targeting voters in Southern, Texas, Fort Worth, and Tarrant County have already been threatened and intimidated, so it would be a good idea to increase the oversight of partisan polls beyond electoral authority. It just increases that threatening factor, “Young said.

After hearing the opinions of the opposition, lawmakers discussed the bill late into the night, and some changes were made to Senate Bill 7 on the floor of the Chamber of Commerce. In particular, the clause that requires a doctor’s note to vote by mail to people with disabilities has been removed. Rights activists with disabilities wondered why someone had to go to the clinic and submit a bill just to vote.

Dixon wondered why policy is controversial in the first place.

“We are literally burning taxes to discuss fragrant and illegal things,” he said. “It’s like a medical tax. Don’t do it.”

Navy veteran David Gooddin from Azle, a double amputee, said he was able to vote to receive mail through the veteran issue. He used to vote directly, but now he doesn’t have a vehicle. Goodin says he is always looking for up-to-date information on voting-related issues and wants to “vote by phone.” This, as he imagined, allows people to vote during a video call.

Goodin said he reviewed a news article about the legislation and said he understood some security needs for voting by mail.

“For me, they’re just trying to make sure the correct votes are counted,” he said.

Where are North Texas lawmakers and officials standing?

For North Texas Congressman Mark BG, D-Fort Worth, it’s clear that the law wasn’t designed to facilitate voting.

“All of this is aimed specifically at the communities that are actually supporting the growth of Tarrant County,” said Veasey, who said much of the county’s growth came from black, Hispanic and Asian voters. I pointed out that.

“Therefore, instead of looking for a way to empower these voters, instead of looking for a way to make it easier to vote like Texas did after Jim Crow, they’re shrinking,” Veasey said. It was.

Judge Glenn Whitley of Tarrant County said he would usually wait for the bill to go further in the legislative process before deciding where to stand in the matter. During the November general election, Tarrant County had one site where voters could withdraw their mail ballots. He said this was necessary in the county.

But he said that the integrity of each person’s vote was his number one priority.

“I think we should do something that encourages voting … and you can do that and still maintain integrity,” he said.

Several Republican Tarrant County lawmakers support election-related measures. Senators Jane Nelson and Brian Birdwell have signed Senate Bill 7 as co-authors. Representatives of the Fort Worth region, Republican House Bill 6, include Congressman Jeff Kason, Congressman Craig Goldman, and Congressman Stephanie Klick. Matt Klaus and Tony Tinderholt.

“The level of fraud in the elections is unacceptable. We continue to hear from stakeholders asking Congress to ensure that the voting process is safe,” Nelson said in a statement. “Senate Bill 7 takes coveted safeguards to improve election integrity. Fair and transparent elections are the basis of our rights as Americans.”

Klaus disagreed with the idea that the bill would curb voting when he said he saw record turnout despite the same debate against the state government. Pointed out the election.

“I think it would be amazing if we were 100% in the next election,” Klaus said. “But as the number of voters increases, there are structural constraints to ensure that people are counted accurately, that their votes are meaningful, and that there are no dilutive illegal activities. I also want to make sure that there are people’s voices. “

In an interview with Star Telegram, Senator Beverly Powell of D-Burleson advocated facilitating voting to ensure that Texas votes were heard.

Part of the reason Nicole Collier, who hasn’t participated in the Parliamentary Elections Committee but chairs the Black Caucus of the Texas Legislature, wanted to attend a shortened hearing last week, was cut off from the conversation. It was to avoid it. This is due to a procedural error. She was forbidden to do so before the hearing ended prematurely.

It was the second time that Senate Democrats used the legislature to postpone hearings on Senate bills, followed by a week delay in hearings on election-related bills.

The legislation has picked out Harris County, but what the county has done to make voting more accessible is commendable, said Fort Worth Democrat Collier.

“The bigger effort we have to make is to increase the participation of voters,” Collier said. “And you don’t do that by making more restrictions.”

Staff writer Brian Lopez contributed to this report.