Democrats trying to restore a landmark voting rights law are going on offense in Texas next week — where Republican election officials are engaged in an effort to stamp out what they call a widespread problem of voter fraud.
Ohio Democrat Marcia Fudge, who chairs a Congressional panel on elections, will host representatives from the NAACP and the Texas Civil Rights Project in Brownsville Monday to begin compiling an official record of states’ attempts to suppress voting. Rep. Marc Veasey will attend along with other Texas Democrats.
“In 2019, laws that are intended to purposely discriminate, hinder, and prohibit the right of Americans to vote are more prevalent than ever,” Veasey said. “The purpose of this event is to spark voter engagement, teach our children about our country’s history of voter suppression and about civil rights history in Brownsville that many aren’t aware of. These kinds of events will encourage the next generation to get registered so they can have a voice in the direction of this country.”
Fudge’s committee has hearings planned in North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Ohio and North Dakota aimed at gathering evidence to support repairing and reauthorizing the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
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The Supreme Court, in a June 2013 decision, struck down a provision of the act that required some or all of 15 states and jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination at the polls to get federal approval, pre-clearance, before changing their rules regarding voting.
Texas, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina and Virginia were subject to the pre-clearance provision as well as local jurisdictions in California, Florida, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, and South Dakota.
Restoring that provision is a top goal of House Democrats’ larger bill that would also restrict the purging of voter roles — as Texas is currently seeking to do. It would also require presidents and vice presidents to release their tax returns, and have independent redistricting commissions draw election district boundaries. It would also make Election Day a federal holiday.
Texas Republicans have made their own voter integrity efforts — including high-profile arrests of people suspected of voter fraud — a top priority in recent years.
Last week Texas Secretary of State David Whitley, a Republican, announced that his office had found roughly 95,000 non-citizens who were registered to vote in Texas - sparking outrage from Republicans, including President Donald Trump, who tweeted that Texas’ findings were “just the tip of the iceberg.”
Voting rights advocates say the opposite, that voter fraud is a much smaller problem than Republicans suggest, and high-profile efforts to stop it discourage and frighten legal voters.
In response to a question from a caller on CSPAN this week, Veasey said that allegations of widespread voter fraud in his state are mostly “urban legend and myth.”
“In Tarrant County, where I’m from… the voter registrar there has already said that the names that have been submitted to him [by the secretary of state] are all U.S. citizens,” said Veasey, who cited a Star-Telegram report.
The report said 1,100 of the 5,800 names the secretary of state gave to the Tarrant County elections administrator for review had already proved they were U.S. citizens. Whitley’s office notified local election officials of those discrepancies on Tuesday.
Republicans on Capitol Hill, who control the Senate, are skeptical of House Democrats’ efforts to impose additional rules on states about how to run their elections.
“Literally hundreds of pages are dedicated to telling states how to run their elections, from when and where they must take place to procedures they have to follow, to machines they have to use,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “Democrats want to import the inefficiencies.”
Texas Democratic Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson, Sheila Jackson Lee, Henry Cuellar, Vicente Gonzalez and Filemon Vela are expected to attend Monday’s hearing in Brownsville.