Business

Greater Houston Partnership Condemns Voter Suppression, Stops Short Of Criticizing Texas Bills

The public statement from the region’s largest chamber of commerce comes after public criticism from Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.

Bob Harvey, the President and CEO of Greater Houston Partnership, at State of Education Luncheon, held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Sept. 16, 2019.

The Greater Houston Partnership on Friday released a statement condemning voter suppression after public criticism from both Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo — but stopped short of calling out Texas Republicans who are pushing through bills in the state legislature that have been condemned as voter suppression.

In its statement, the partnership wrote that it “values the dignity of all and strongly supports efforts to promote equity and inclusion.” It also acknowledged a history in Texas and the nation of suppressing the right to vote to women and people of color and said legislation should not limit voting access to any community.

“We believe voting is fundamental to our democracy,” the statement reads. “Voting rules and regulations that are consistently applied are essential. These rules should ensure our elections are open to and readily accessible by all. Together, these protections maintain confidence in the electoral process itself.”

The group went on to say it believed “voter suppression is wrong” and that “impediments to voting should be reduced to the greatest extent possible.”

But it made no mention of two bills in the Texas legislature — House Bill 6 and Senate Bill 7 — that civil rights groups, voting rights groups and local officials have condemned as a way to suppress votes, especially in diverse, Democratic-leaning areas like Harris County.

That legislation came closer to becoming law last night and early this morning, after a contentious, lengthy debate in the Texas House of Representatives that led to its passage along party lines. It now makes its way back to the state Senate, where a final version will likely be crafted behind closed doors.

The statement comes after several GHP members urged the board to take a stand on the bills. Those members sent a letter to the partnership president and board chair this week asking them to condemn the legislation, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Both Turner and Hidalgo also announced the cancellation of their state of the city and county addresses, in response to the organization’s silence.

A spokesman in Hidalgo's office said the partnership's statement "hasn't changed her position since the press conference on this."

Mayor Turner did not immediately responded to a request for comment Friday.

As part of the its statement, GHP President Bob Harvey said the group remains “committed to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the Houston business community.”

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Paul DeBenedetto

Paul DeBenedetto

Senior Producer

Paul DeBenedetto is Houston Public Media's senior digital producer, writing and editing stories for HoustonPublicMedia.org. Before joining the station, Paul worked as a web producer for the Houston Chronicle, and his work has appeared online and in print for the Chronicle, the New York Times, DNAinfo New York, and other...

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