Published On: Sun, Jul 18th, 2021

Texas Democrats to spotlight national voting rights with week of events

The Texas Democrats who fled the state last week to block voting restrictions are planning a week of events with national advocates and labor leaders, election officials and other Democrats as they seek to keep the pressure on Congress to pass federal voting legislation.

The lawmakers will participate in in a five-day conference starting Monday that will bring guest speakers and other lawmakers to work with the Texas coalition. Service Employees International Union Texas and Mi Familia Vota, a national civic engagement group, are hosting the event.

Guest speakers include labor leader Dolores Huerta, four secretaries of state from around the country, and lawmakers from other states where Republicans have advanced voting restrictions.

Organizers said the event will be educational for participants, while highlighting the need for Congress to pass federal voting legislation, including the For the People Act, Democrats’ sweeping election overhaul bill that Republicans have so far blocked thanks to filibuster rules that prevent legislation from passing without 60 votes in the Senate.

“Once there’s a little sunshine on this issue, I think there’s nobody in America that would disagree that voting rights are more important than Senate rules,” said state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, a Democrat from San Antonio.

After three of the Texas lawmakers in Washington tested positive for Covid-19, the event was adapted to be more virtual; the state Democrats will participate as a group from an event space in their hotel while the majority of the speakers join virtually.

“We didn’t want to wait or postpone the conference given everything going on right now. All eyes are on this issue, because of what the state legislators have done,” SEIU Texas President Elsa Caballero said. “The climate is just right for us to continue to put that extra light and pressure on to get something done.”

More than 50 Democrats from the Texas House of Representatives flew from Austin to Washington last Monday to break quorum and block voting restrictions from being passed by the state’s Republican majority. To prevent quorum from being restored, at least 51 House members will need to stay out of state through the expiration of the special legislative session on Aug. 7, or they can be arrested and brought back to the state Capitol.

Huerta will speak on Monday, and advocates, including Cliff Albright from Voters Matter Fund, will address the group Tuesday. On Wednesday, Texas legislators will meet with lawmakers from Colorado and Nevada about election administration and best practices. The county clerk in Denver, Paul López, will speak about the city’s well-regarded mail election system.

Thursday will feature top election officials from four states: Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea and Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill.

On Friday, the group will connect with Democratic lawmakers from Arizona, Florida and Georgia, where Republicans were able to enact significant new restrictions.

“With this conference, we will help prepare our voting rights champions for the fight ahead,” Héctor Sánchez Barba, CEO of Mi Familia Vota, said in a statement. “We will show them they aren’t alone in defending our democracy and fighting for us all.”

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