Republicans have the motto: “If you can’t beat ’em, cheat ’em,” Julián Castro said in Austin.
On May 7, Texas became the latest state to push forward voter restrictions. The Republican-majority House passed Senate Bill 7. The vote came down the party line with 78 to 64. The bill will now head to the Senate, but Texans are not giving up the fight. They organized a massive rally took place at the State Capitol in Austin.
“This is the single greatest attack on our democracy, not just in our lifetime, but perhaps in the lifetime of this very democracy,” said former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, and Democratic 2020 presidential candidate, at the Austin rally.
If Congress passes the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, it would prevent Texas and other states from suppressing people’s rights to vote.
As of now, there are two versions of Senate Bill 7. The version that Republicans put forth would bring “election integrity and security, including by preventing fraud in the conduct of elections in this state; increasing criminal penalties; creating criminal offenses.” However, during the 2020 presidential election, 11 million people voted in Texas, and the state only prosecuted 16 cases of fraud.
In reality, Republicans want SB 7 to become law in order to prevent election officials from proactively mailing out absentee ballots or applications for them.
The bill would also allow partisan poll watchers, which would, in turn, prevent election officials from removing anyone misbehaving or invading voters’ personal space. According to The New York Times, it “also sets new penalties, and raises existing ones, for election officials who provide assistance to voters in ways that are found to violate the rules.”
But Democrats did intervene by adding last-minute amendments, which made it through. Those amendments included expanding voting access, a provision that would require judges to inform someone if a conviction will prohibit them from voting, rather than automatically charging such people with a crime if they try to vote despite a previous conviction.
Democrats also removed some GOP amendments from the bill, including banning drive-through voting and 24-hour voting, reducing the number of polling locations, and banning partisan poll watchers from video-recording or taking pictures of voters.
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While Democrats made some improvements to the bill, the Senate (in a conference committee) can change the bill back to how the GOP initially wrote it.
Julián Castro, former San Antonio mayor and 2020 presidential candidate, also spoke at the Austin rally and said that Republicans have the motto: “If you can’t beat ’em, cheat ’em.”
“We’re here today to say no,” Castro said. “We will not stand for that.”