Last Thursday morning, over 500 faith leaders and supporters gathered in Austin, Texas to support Democrats and protest against voter suppression in Texas. Democrats have gone to Washington, D.C to avoid a vote. The fifty-seven caucus members are determined to stay away as long as it takes.
According to reports, the new legislative law would eliminate drive-thru and 24-hour voting, ban mailing of unsolicited mail ballot applications, expand the access of partisan poll watchers, create new ID requirements for mail ballots, and add new requirements to assistant voters with disabilities, among other provisions.
Texas Governor, Gary Abbott claims that the bill will create voter integrity. “Texas is making it far easier to vote time wise than ever before. There is nobody of any type of background, economic race, or what otherwise who would be deprived of their ability to vote,” he stated.
The Texas Capitol had several prominent figures like Rev. William J. Barber II, a North Carolina pastor who helped start the Moral Mondays national protest and the Martin Luther King Jr. inspired Poor People’s Campaign. He spoke, referencing a verse from Isaiah 10: “Woe unto those who legislate evil and rob the poor of their rights and make women and children prey,” Barber II said. “There is a robbery going on in Texas and 40 other states and in the United States Congress.”
Barber also noted that the law would not only affect black Texas residents but all Texans, especially the poor. Other protesters mentioned that it would affect night shift workers, making it difficult for them to find a time to vote.
“Now way back yonder, the first moves to keep people from voting … [were] targeted at white people, to keep them from uniting with the cause of abolition,” he said. “We got to look at this through the lens of race and class. … Because James Crow, Esquire, isn’t just interested in robbing Black folk. James Crow, Esquire, wants to rob anybody and anybody’s voice who will stand up for what’s right.”
The organizer of the event and co-founder of the Barbara Jordan Leadership Institute, Jane Hamilton said there were a few messages they wanted to get across to the government. They first wanted Congress to pass the “For the People Act,” a sweeping federal elections bill, as well as the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which would re-establish a practice known as pre-clearance that required some states to get approval from the U.S. Department of Justice to enact new voting rules.
Friendship-West Baptist Church sent five buses of church members and local residents in support of the rally. “Texas is already one of the hardest states in the Union to be able to vote and now they’re trying to make that even more difficult,” said Danielle Ayers, the Minister of Justice of Friendship-West.
During the Democrats’ absence, Republicans are focusing on other legislative items like “The Thirteenth Check,” a supplemental payment of benefits under the Teacher Retirement System of Texas. This bill would have likely passed easily had the Democrats remained in the state. Political analysts believe however that Republicans are using issues like this as a tactic for political gain.