Politics

Houston-Area Democratic Leaders Protest Republican Election Bills As ‘Voter Suppression’

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner linked the fight against SB 7 and HB 6 to the civil rights struggle in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, one day after his killer was convicted.

Mayor Sylvester Turner speaking at Axelrad in Midtown Houston on April 20, 2021.

Houston-area Democratic leaders and civil rights advocates are pushing back against key Republican voting bills advancing in the Texas Legislature critics say are meant to suppress turnout.

The demonstrations came as the Senate's bill awaits action in the House.

Speaking outdoors in Midtown Houston, Mayor Sylvester Turner returned to a theme of his previous speeches, comparing the bills to Jim Crow-era voting restrictions.

But he also linked the fight against the bills to Tuesday's verdict in the George Floyd murder trial.

"These voter suppression bills – Senate Bill 7, HB 6 – cannot be viewed separate from the social and civil injustices highlighted by the death of George Floyd," Turner said. "In fact, they create a toxic environment that fuel injustices and division, which is not good for anyone."

The bills largely focus on restricting voting measures adopted or attempted by Harris County in the 2020 general election. But Turner sought to place them in a larger context.

"These bills are not just aimed at Harris County or Texas," Turner said. "These bills are part of a national campaign to restrict people's right to vote and to intimidate people while they are voting. Quite frankly, these are Jim Crow 2.0 bills."

Senate Bill 7 has already passed the Republican-led Senate and is currently awaiting a hearing in the Republican-led House Elections Committee. But Turner dismissed the idea that the passage of one or both bills was assured.

"I am not convinced that these bills will just go through the legislative process," Turner said. "And I'm certainly not convinced when good folk, good people, stand up to make a difference."

Among other measures, the bills would ban 24-hour voting and drive-through voting.

Former Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins, who enacted many of the voting reforms in the county, pointed out that the majority of voters who used both those methods in the 2020 general election were people of color.

"Why are we taking 24-hour voting away?" Hollins said. "Because 56% of voters in November who used 24-hour voting were people of color, and they know that. Why are we taking drive-through voting away? Because 53% of those voters in 2020 were people of color. And the people who are pushing these bills are aware of these statistics."

Supporters of the bills argue the measures are necessary to eliminate the risk of voter fraud.

But according to independent analysis, voter fraud nationwide is so rare as to be negligible.

And Hollins pointed out that in Harris County there was no evidence of fraud in the last election cycle.

"There have been no cases of voter fraud reported from November of 2020 in Harris County," Hollins said. "None. This is not factual, and we need to live in a world of facts and reality."

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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media’s coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments across Greater Houston. Before taking up his current post, Andrew spent five years as Houston Public Media’s business reporter, covering the oil...

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