Democrats take stand for voting rights during special session

Marisa Huerta

During the Texas Legislature’s special session Monday, a majority of Democrats left Texas for Washington D.C. to avoid voting on an elections bill that would restrict voting opportunities — a move that comes as many UT students urge lawmakers to fight against voter suppression.

The new bills would limit polling hours, the number of polling  locations and increase access for partisan poll watchers. Democrats avoided a vote on the new bills, which were likely to pass, with their departure, but the future of the bills remains uncertain.

David Prindle, a government professor in the College of Liberal Arts, said Texas Republicans have historically discouraged minorities to vote and are attempting to justify voter suppression under the guise of election integrity.

“After outlawing the poll tax in 1964, they can’t directly charge minorities for voting anymore,” Prindle said. “So now they’re indirectly charging minorities by making it more difficult and costly in terms of time, effort and knowledge.”

Prindle said the bill will mean limiting voting hours as well as the ways one person can help other people to vote.

“When we are talking about these issues, we’re not just talking about who wins and loses, and we’re not just talking about a legal dry set of rules — we’re talking about right and wrong,” Prindle said. “What the Republicans are attempting to do is make Texas into a non-democracy, which under democratic theory, would mean that it is an illegitimate government.”

Texas Rising member Ric Galvan said their organization will be attending the special session, recruiting people to testify and encouraging lawmakers to fight against the elections bill.

“I don’t know what the goal is here besides making it harder to vote,” history senior Galvan said. “Limiting early voting times or taking away polling locations from communities of color and working-class communities all across the state, or even just allowing partisan poll watchers to watch people vote, literally as they’re voting; things like that are just taking away the accessibility to vote and it’s used to intimidate people at the polls.”

Galvan stressed the importance of students and young people getting involved because he said this special session will go by quickly.

“There are going to be attacks on our individual liberties, so if we want to stop those things and actually push the things that matter to us, we need to do it now,” Galvan said.

Government junior Chris Vasquez, who worked as a legislative intern during the last session under State Rep. Ana-María Ramos, said even though Democrats are in a minority, they will continue to fight back.

“The quorum break was the most historic moment of the 87 legislative session,” Vasquez said. “That was the one moment when the country realized that the Texas House Democrats were going to fight regardless of if we have the majority and whether or not we have a shot at stopping the worst of the worst.”