Skip to main content

tv   Hearing on Voting Rights in Texas  CSPAN  July 29, 2021 10:47am-12:00pm EDT

10:47 am
18. i ask for its immediate consideration in the house. with that i yield back. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman yields back. pursuant to the order of the house of january 4, 2021, the house is in session solely for the purpose of conducting morning hour debate. therefore that unanimous consent request cannot be entertained at this time. pursuant to clause 12-a of rule 1, the chair declares the house in recess until noon
10:48 am
mr. sessions: what's being held? one is the election integrity bill. we'll talk about that election integrity bill in detail. i think that anyone that is listening to this will recognize that the strength of any
10:49 am
majority or member of that body to bring forth a bill that they believe would be important is important whether it's complete or not. that process would involve each of the members who would be here to offer amendments to that to change it. but members are still allowed to represent their particular constituents with what they do. second, border security. as a result of president biden's decision on january 20 to literally tell federal law enforcement officers that they will not enforce the laws, the border laws, the immigration laws, and the commonsense laws this country has placed a tremendous burden and it is an emergency in texas. over one million illegal immigrants from entered the
10:50 am
united states. record numbers of drugs are coming in the united states. and essentially these federal officers that were there to protect the united states of america, not just our sovereignty but to protect people who might live in my hometown of waco, texas, from drug cartels that are sending record levels of fentanyl, cocaine, and meth. to our american cities and homes. third, family violence education is now not moving forward in texas. this is based upon their ability to provide appropriate and more education to middle and high school students about dating violence, domestic violence, and child abuse. to recognize that what is happening in this country is we have a crisis in our homes. one can say because of covid. i say because of the changing times.
10:51 am
we need to use our schools to educate our students about these circumstances. number three, youth sports. there is going to be a bill that disallows a student from competing in athletic competitions designed for students of the opposite sex. we believe, i believe it's fair to have the debate. and a vote. and to see the different ideas that come forth about that opportunity where people of one sex would compete against another sex, person of that sex that i believe is unfair to women. i think it's an anti-women circumstance that we are involved in. i had children. i competed when i was in high school. it's unfair to have a 17-year-old boy compete against a 17-year-old girl in most sports.
10:52 am
13 check is legislation the house has before it to give teachers a 13th check during the year. allowing teachers a chance to have not only more supplemental payments and benefits, but to allow them at a time when more money is available and the teacher retirement system, but it requires the legislature to act. property tax relief, the proposal is to allow the legislature to provide appropriation from the general fund to give property tax relief to all texans. these are important issues that need to be done. the business of the people of the state of texas. today in essence we are allowing and coddling people who should be at work in the state of texas , their constitutional duties. yet we are treating them as
10:53 am
hometown heroes in washington, d.c. i believe they need to have their constitutional duties performed and be back home. now, mr. chairman, texas has been a pioneer in passing early voting laws that began in 1988 in texas. but i would say to you that texas has used every two years for the legislature to be able to strengthen these laws and to provide feedback and to allow texans the opportunity to vote. i would note that texas allows 17 days more of early voting than delaware, which is where our president is from. texas allows each texan 17 days more than the state of delaware. these bills that we'll be talking about today keep the ability for disabled or elderly
10:54 am
persons to vote curb side. that's important to me. i have a disabled son. perhaps my son may or may not want to go inside. he can stay outside and it allows that. we need to also remember that these discussions, our discussions opened to amendment. these bills would make sure that voters have a right to cure their absentee ballots of mistakes. and they are given in these bills up to six days after the election to be able to cure a mistake if you had one. this is a far cry from democrats' claim that the vote is being suppressed. it actually allows them an opportunity to figure out if they had done something wrong. that is common in both the senate and the house bills. transparency is necessary in elections. this bill guarantees elections
10:55 am
observers of any -- free from any political persuasion. we heard our chairman today lament that partisan poll workers would be discouraged. let me repeat, he believes, evidently, that partisan poll workers should be involved in that process. we disagree in texas. we think anyone that comes to vote should be free of partisan poll workers engaged in an election site. we believe that texas democrats understand these bills because many of the people, several of the people here today, sought amendment to those amendments and they were accepted in the bills and the process that is have gone on. one member has been a member of the legislature for a number of years and no doubt knows that the laws of texas that are
10:56 am
updated every two years are done in the best interest of all texans. but rather than continuing the debate, they broke quorum and they are trying to paralyze this progress that would be made on behalf of all texans. mr. chairman, i hope today that the testimony that we are going to offer today from a state representative clarity in particular will allow those elected representatives who are republicans in texas a chance to set the record straight about not only what is in these bills, but the need to make sure that texas works together and passes these laws for the benefit of all texans. i yield back my time. mr. raskin: thank you so much. we have two other opening statements. the chair of the committee on
10:57 am
oversight and reform, mrs. maloney. she's now recognized for her opening statement. mrs. maloney: thank you, chairman raskin, for convening today's urgent and vital hearing. i want to thank you for your leadership on this issue and your enduring commitment to the legacy of our late chairman, elijah cummings, late colleague, representative john lewis. who both fought tirelessly to protect americans' right to vote. this is a historic hearing. not just because of our distinguished witnesses, but because of the brave actions they took to defend the rights of texans against one of the most aggressive attempts at voter suppression we have seen anywhere in the country. now more than ever we must follow their example to ensure that these shameful attacks on the right to vote do not succeed. we must fight to fulfill the american promise that voters choose their elected representatives rather than
10:58 am
politicians picking their own voters. when it comes to restricting the right to vote, our nation has an ugly past. historical voter suppression measures included threats of lynching, poll taxes, and literacy tests. today texas remains the hardest state in the entire country for americans to vote. texans have repeatedly refused to implement reforms that would support greater voter engagement. in 2013, the supreme court's decision in shelby county vs. holder blocked the department of justice from overseeing elections in places that historically discouraged and suppressed the votes of black, latino, and other communities of color. since that decision, texas has removed its voter suppression with a vengeance. it has closed 750 polling sites, including 452 polling sites in
10:59 am
counties with the largest increases in black, latina voters and more than any other state in the union. now texas republicans are trying to add new restrictions to voting. let's be clear about these bills, what they are, and what they are not. these bills are not an effort to make voting in texas more secure. these bills are part of a racist campaign to decide who gets the right to vote. these bills takes power and choice away from the people of texas and let the politicians decide who their voters are. simply put, these bills are an attack on voters and on the rights guaranteed by the constitution. but there is a solution. congress must act. congress must pass the for the people act which would end institutional barriers to voting and ensure all eligible voters can register and cast their ballot.
11:00 am
congress also must pass the john lewis voting rights act to restore and strengthen the landmark voting rights act. we must seize this moment to restore the vision of america as a nation of rights where government derives its power from the people not the other way around. .
11:01 am
mr. comer: it would prevent commonsense and popular integrity measures such as voter i.d. once again, democrats are engaging in spectacle oversubstance while conducting no real oversight. there are multiple ongoing crises that is going on due to biden's border, crime crises. we wanted a hearing on the border crisis, including the migrant children being put in
11:02 am
crowded spaces during the middle of a pandemic. the democrats have not had any hearing nor called for an investigation on the gross mismanagement at the southern border. we heard about waste, fraud, abuse in the federal government. our committee's core mission. but democrats have ignored these requests. because federal bureaucrats have not returned to the workplace, veterans have waited for almost a year, a year for their records from the national archives and records administration. this massive backlog is delaying the benefits to which they're entitled. yet, no hearings from this committee. hundreds of billions in pandemic unemployment relief have been stolen by international crime organizations. again, there's been no hearing to understand how u.s. taxpayer dollars were so badly managed or the damage it caused to our national security. no wonder the democrats on this committee received an f, an f in congressional oversight by the
11:03 am
lugar center. americans deserve better. instead of conducting real oversight, democrats are holding a hearing to celebrate their theatrical exit of over 50 texas democrat legislators from their state to debate on legislation they simply don't like. they paralyzed the texas house which cannot proceed to voting rights for texans, including voting integrity measures. during their superspreader stunt, democrats flew to d.c. in two private charter jets, stayed in downtown hotels, met with the vice president, the speaker, and other congressional leaders. they spread covid-19 all over d.c. and made sure to share their vacation experience all over social media to fundraise for their campaign and expenses. unfortunately, this stunt likely pushed d.c. into the substantial spread zone and we know what that will mean for our children.
11:04 am
no in-person school. in these democrats actually cared about voting rights, they would care about the right of texans to have their voice heard through their duly elected representatives. it prevented the legislature on debating on important measures during the special session. it hurt all voters throughout texas. the texas bills has commonsense voting integrity measures, such as extending a simple voter i.d. requirement to absentee ballots and standardizing and expanding early voting access. unfortunately, because texas democrats fled their state for washington, that process cannot proceed as designed. i hope our committee will see the light in this partisan charade and start conducting real oversight. the american people are counting on us to safeguard their government from waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement. that's the reason this committee exists. thank you, mr. chairman. i yield back. mr. raskin: thank you very much,
11:05 am
mr. comer, for your opening statement. and i do want to remind the committee members we're operating under the rules and guidance of the capitol physician, which is, please have your masks on when you're not speaking. thank you, mr. comer, for demonstrating good public health manners there. and members will not be recognized if they're not wearing their masks when they're not speaking. it's now my great privilege and honor to introduce our witnesses today. our first witness is the honorable senfronia thompson, texas state representative and member of the select committee on constitutional rights and remedies of the texas legislature. we'll hear from nina perales, at the mexican defense and legal education fund. next we'll hear from nicole collier, texas state representative and part of the texas black caucus. and we'll hear from travis cardey who is a representative in the texas legislature and
11:06 am
diego bernal, member of the mexican american legislative conference. the witnesses will please rise, be unmuted, be so we can swear them all in wherever you are, please raise your right hand. do you swear or affirm that the testimony you're about to give us is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you god. >> i do. >> i do. mr. raskin: let the record demonstrate all witnesses said in the affirmative. representative thompson, you are now recognized for your testimony. before you begin, i want to recognize, also, the presence of our distinguished colleague from texas, mrs. lizzie fletcher from huston. represent -- from houston. representative thompson, you're recognized. ms. thompson: thank you, chairman raskin and ranking member sessions. we're honored to see our representative from texas. pete sessions, good to see you.
11:07 am
we had an opportunity to check with one for a moment. we're happy to see the new freshman, colleague up here. pat. we miss him in texas. we know he's doing a good job up there. mr. chairman, i was sitting there listening to the comments, opening statements that were made. i had to take a step back and kind of look at the history that i have been able to perceive in texas. it's very difficult to look at the history of a progress that maybe african-americans may have made in this country without looking back at the struggles that we have gone through and the struggles that we keep going through. i can understand the position of some of the persons who spoke earlier because they have been part of the privileged society that i have never been a part of. what i have been concerned about
11:08 am
listening to them is that inability to be able to stand in other people's shoes and recognize that the rights that they take for granted to vote in this country. even though we are americans we don't share those same rights. i just want to digress for a moment, if i can. i'm in my 25th session of the legislature and i have been privileged to represent persons in my district and one of the members said, well, you shouldn't be here. you should be back in texas doing this and doing that and those sort of things and i listened carefully. i'm here because this is the seat of democracy and my people who i represent has a right to be able to vote unabridged, just like all of you. you may not want to recognize it, but we're supposed to have those rights. that's why i'm here.
11:09 am
i'm here fighting for them. and i have the right to fight for them. and someday i'm hoping i don't have to keep fighting despite my grandchildren and my grandchildren's children will not have to keep repeating these struggles. i was born in texas, and i can tell you just from my testimony as a child, my grandmother used to work and earned $2 a week working for the privilege. and out of those $2 a week, she used to save pennies and nickels to be able to buy a poll tax. the poll tax, as you know, was created to give people an opportunity to invest in public education support. but if you were white, the grandfather clause took care of you. you didn't have to pay the poll taxes. but my grandmother was african-american and she had to pay those poll taxes and to pay $1.25, it was difficult to save
11:10 am
money. my grandfather couldn't afford to buy poll taxes because they both couldn't buy poll taxes. it was too costly. she had to ride a bus to get to the poll tax, a place for colored people to go and vote. transportation was certainly not accessible as it is today. i can tell you, when i first voted 60-some years ago, i had to buy a poll tax. and they did not exempt me as they did others. and texas has had a poll tax, and we did not get rid of our poll tax until 1966 even though the law had been passed. i would not vote. my grandmother could not vote in
11:11 am
the primary, chairman raskin. and you want to know why. because she was black. and primaries was for white only. it was not until smith vs. allred, a case won by thurgood marshall that had african-americans a right to say in their primary democracy. we're not talking about something that you go to the store and use for a little while and toss aside because you've gotten tired of it. we're talking about something that makes and breaks this country when we're talking about the democracy to vote. you damn right i left texas and i'm glad i did. you know why, pete? i left texas to give my people the right to vote without them being infringed upon. i had a chance to vote during 2010 and 2012 when poll watchers came to my precinct where i vote
11:12 am
personally. let me tell you the chilling effect of that. they had people, chairman raskin, that looked like they were from the proud boys, looking at you like you were in the wrong place. in a minority area, that has a chilling effect. that chilling effect is the pressure of voting. i don't know what you call intimidation. intimidation by any other name is still intimidation. it's intimidating, and the word gets out that these people are at your polls looking at you like they want to arrest you. keep you from voting. and people, as a result of that, do not go and cast their vote. i am the voice of my constituents, and if i had to walk to washington, d.c., to get here to fight for my constituents, i will use any means necessary to get my point
11:13 am
over. i will meet with anyone they allowed me to talk to about preserving and protecting the rights of my constituents to be able to have a say in their democracy. the governor's own secretary of state said this. the 2020 elections was the most transparent and secure elections. i see she's not there anymore, but that was his secretary of secretary of state. mr. raskin: thank you very much for your testimony, representative thompson. i look forward to our questioning. before i go to representative collier, i want to recognize the arrival of representative marc veasey who is from texas. welcome. representative collier, you're recognized for your five minutes. ms. collier: thank you, chair
11:14 am
raskin, and members of the committee. it's an honor to be here before you to provide information and to share our story about what brought us here to washington, d.c. my name is nicole collier. i'm currently elected to serve house district 95 for the last five legislative sessions. i currently am also elected to chair the texas legislative black caucus which was founded in 1973 with eight members. today we have 19 members. we are a bipartisan, bicameral organization with the goal in mind of addressing the issues affecting african-americans. i want to go back to some of the things that were talked about. some of you may be asking, you know, why did we ring the alarm? why are we raising the concern about what's going on in texas? well, it's not just happening in texas. it's happening across our
11:15 am
country. we have seen a concerted effort in various states to pass legislation that would limit access to the ballot. it would not expand access. it would reduce access. what is happening in texas is no different. you heard about the republican appointed secretary of state who said that the 2020 elections were smooth and secure. and yet, we still found ourselves facing legislation to address the elections. i want to also point out some of the things that -- i want to respond to some of the things that were mentioned. of course, there are some other legislation that was put on the call from the governor. one of them being critical race theory, which would white wash the systemic racism that has happened in our country. also is limiting access to legal
11:16 am
abortion. that is also on the call. and i would remind everyone that the 13th check, our retired teachers have not had a cost of living raise in years. and the democrats have always advocated for additional funding for our teachers, including the 13th check. in fact, that same bill passed through the democratic committee quickly and died in the republican-controlled calendar's committee so we stood for our teachers all along. another thing that i want to remind you is that there was mention of the walkout of the quorum. that's a procedural method just like the filibuster is in the senate. if they don't like a procedure, a policy that's being presented in the senate, they filibuster. that is just part of the rules. that is what we have come to see. what happened in texas was that we tried to work with our colleagues. we provided amendments.
11:17 am
miss t, representative thompson, sat through 400 hours of testimony. 65 for it. all of the amendments that were presented by our democratic colleagues were declined on party line. in fact, there was a vote immediately following the hearing to pass this bill. so there was no interest. there was no even attempt to work and compromise and collaborate with our colleagues on this. our backs were against the wall. there was no more discussion. we saw the writing on the wall just like it was during the regular session. i was on the conference committee for senate bill 7 during the regular session and it's no different than what we saw in this special session. the bills that were filed would do more harm than good. they would limit access to the polls. you talk about -- i heard people say that we are opposed to voter
11:18 am
i.d. let me tell you, texas has been found to violate the voting rights act of 1965 every decade since its passage. we cannot outmobilize racist gerrymandering. and when you talk about having somebody represent the interest of the people, it only reflects the racist gerrymandering that has been taking place in texas. so we don't have people that represent the communities that they represent. we need to make sure that we have communities -- they have to have the ability to represent -- to elect a candidate of their choice. someone that represents their values. and we're not doing that in texas. i just want to talk about one of the provisions in the bill. miss t, forgive me, say, for instance, she registered to vote 20 years ago. there is a provision in this bill that would require someone that's eligible to vote by mail to insert their last four digits
11:19 am
of their driver's license or social security number or say they don't have one. miss t may have registered 20 years ago. she may not remember which one she provided when she originally provided to vote. if she put down the other number, even though it's the correct one, her ballot would be rejected. and there's no sheer opportunity within this bill to cure her ballot. she would not even know that her ballot would have been rejected. that's just one instance. and i welcome the opportunity to continue this conversation to provide additional information about why we founded -- sounded alarm. mr. raskin: thank you, representative collier. sorry. senator sessions: mr. chairman, i would -- mr. sessions: mr. chairman, i would ask that you remind the witnesses they have taken an oath to tell the truth. subject to that, texas had a cola in 2013 for teachers.
11:20 am
the gentlewoman has led us to believe there were no colas that were given, no updates. that is, mr. chairman, that is a direct lie before this committee. it's not truthful. mr. raskin: without entering into the merits of that -- mr. sessions: we need to because there is no need to give your opening oath. >> mr. chairman, sorry, i don't know what the procedure is. that goes directly to her character. she should be able to respond to that. mr. raskin: i want to continue with the witnesses. obviously, there is some factual difference and point of view about a teacher cola. i am not sure how apt it is to our hearing. we'll clarify that. i'm sure there is no ill intent. mr. sessions: it was part of her testimony and it was meant to mislead this committee. mr. raskin: ok. i'm sure there will be a clarification if there was any misstatement there. why don't we go ahead and
11:21 am
recognize representative cardy who is now recognized for five minutes for his testimony. mr. cardy: thank you, chairman raskin and ranking member sessions and members of the committee for the opportunity to speak about election integrity in texas. for the record, my name is travis card and proud to represent house district 11, part of nacogdoches. the laws protecting our vote should be conveyed honestly and vigorously. that is exactly what we've endeavored to do in texas for the last eight months. while i am grateful for the invitation to be here, i believe this conversation is best suited for the texas house floor and our state capitol in austin rather than in a washington, d.c. committee hearing room. i must take exception to the premise of why i testified. to be sure, there is no assault on voting rights in texas. but there is in fact, a real
11:22 am
danger posed to our direction. not the well-intentioned and reasoned provisions in h.p. 3 to better secure our election processes. instead the growing threat of practices is too long tolerated to bribe individuals to dilute the essential democratic concept of one person, bun vote. moreover -- one vote. moreover, while i appreciate the hard work to pass a one-size-fits-all omnibus bill. [indiscernible] a dedicated group of election professionals that should be the envy of every state in the union. this is reflected in the outcome of this tuesday's special election. texas enjoyed a safe, secure, timely and well-run election
11:23 am
which we can take pride with trust and confidence. but first, let me say this to my democratic colleagues there with you today. it's time to come home. enough is enough. you had your fun. it's time to get back to work. you know as well as i do this legislation has been negotiated in good faith and deserves your attention. house bill 3, the reason we are here today, is a sound and tailored bill to improve existing law. like every bill, it can get better through debate and deliberation. but unfortunately, until our colleagues decide to come home, that is not possible. in texas, we allow everyone to submit amendments to be argued during floor debates. it's an inclusive process that's served us well and is available to all those who want to participate. simply put, we should want to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat. house bill 3 expands voting hours. it makes it possible for voters to correct mistakes on their mail-in ballots and in fact,
11:24 am
it's such a good bill, that the professional associations representing our election administers and our county clerks around texas testified fafshly that with a few technical process changes they would change their formal positions from neutral to actually supporting the bill, which we all should want. now, i would like to address some of the misconceptions that have made their way around the national media concerning house bill 3. first, house bill 3 does not limit hours of voting. actually, house bill 3 expands voting time from current law of 7:00 to 7:00 to 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., an increase of four hours per day. further, employees are required employees -- employers are required employees to vote or face criminal sanctions. house bill 3 does not eliminate curb side voting. it's allowed for disabled and other -- an accommodation that allows these individuals to drive to the polls and participate in person rather
11:25 am
than mailing in their ballots, which remains an option. thirdly, poll watchers cannot intimidate voters. this bill does not permit voter intimidation. they can't allow them to watch them cast a ballot or film it. they can be ejected from the -- interfere in the election process or committed -- breach the violation of law. house bill 3 will not allow mail-in ballots to be thrown out automatically. for the first time, it allows the voters to cure their mistakes so all valid ballots can be counted. fifthly and finally, it does not impose integrity on voter assistance. it expands current law regarding their information and the assistance oath before aiding the voter. folks, let's make no mistake about it. illegal voting does occur in the state of texas. and it cannot be excused. we must have zero tolerance when
11:26 am
it comes to voter fraud. confidence in our elections, like faith in our judiciary and trust in our law enforcement is vital to the perpetuation of the american experience. it's our best and up most assurance for the survival of our republic. this is the duty we have to all of our constituents and the oath we all took for our constitution, to our nation and to our state. i believe we are all up to the task. thank you for the opportunity to be here today. and i look forward to answering any questions. thank you. mr. raskin: thank you very much for your testimony, representative clardy. nina perales who is the vice president of litigation at the mexican legal defense and educational fund. ms. perales: thank you for allowing me to testify today. two bills, s.b. 1 and h.b. 3 seeks to suppress my north voter
11:27 am
participation and thwart a more racially diverse texas electorate. the texas bills deprives latino voters of lawful voter assistance. a significant number of latino as well as asian voters rely on language assistance from family members, friends, or neighbors. article 6 of h.b. 3 requires voter assisters to swear under penalty of perjury that they will restrict their assistance to reading and marking the ballot. article 5 of s.b. 1 requires the assister to swear that the assister did not encourage the voter to choose them. h.b. 3 and s.b. 1 both require the assister to secure statement of eligibility from the voter. these voter assistance restrictions violate the federal voting rights act which guarantees voters the right to assistance beyond just reading and marking ballot and does not require the voter to explain his
11:28 am
or her name for assistance. the first amendment to the u.s. constitution and section 208 of the voting rights act guarantee individuals the right to encourage a voter to rely on them for assistance and guarantees voters the right to choose assisters who encourage them. in addition, these bills create new paperwork requirements of assisters that will slow down the voting process and increase wait times at polling places in predominantly latino neighborhoods. none of these provisions are based on any evidence that voters who need assistance are involved in fraud. second, the texas bills invite voter intimidation by poll watchers. section 3 of s.b. 1 and section 4 of h.b. 3 strip voters of the protections of privacy and security in the polling place and invite vigilanteism by poll watchers. the bills empower poll watchers
11:29 am
to roam around the polling place and stand close to voters while they are voting. at the same time, the bills punish polling place officials with up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine for refusing to accept a watcher even when the poll workers are concerned that the watcher is disruptive. poll workers face the same penalty to protect a voter from a watcher who is trying to intimidate that voter. section 4 of h.b. 3 prohibits election officers from removing disruptive or even violent poll watchers unless the poll watchers commit a second infraction. that means they can scream, yell, physically impede, frighten or drive off voters and must still be allowed to remain in the polling place unless they were previously warned and commit a violation again.
11:30 am
these provisions ensure that not only will voters be intimidated but unrestrained poll watchers but election officials will also be intimidated by the threat of severe penalties for stepping in and trying to protect voters from poll watcher interference. latino voters in texas have born the brunt of more than a century of voter intimidation at the polls. there's every reason to believe that removing security measures inside polling places will result in more intimidation of latino voters. third, the texas bills continues historic as well as recent racial discrimination in voting. texas 1.04 of senate bill 1, which was amended out of the bill after public testimony created a voter purge surgically aimed at disenfranchising naturalized u.s. citizen voters. this was the same voter purge launched by texas against 98,000 voters in 2019.
11:31 am
and blocked by a federal court order. texas settled that case and agreed not to use this policy again. but s.b. 1 brought it back with the same predictable result of excluding primarily latino and asian american new citizens from voting. the 2019 voter purge was only the latest in a long history of discrimination against latino voters in texas. the u.s. supreme court in 2006 explained that, quote, texas has a long, well documented history of discrimination that has touched upon the rights of african-americans and hispanics to register to vote or to participate otherwise in the electoral process, unquote. that case has since been followed by u.s. supreme court ruling in 2018 that texas had again discriminated against latino voters. s.b. 1 and h.b. 3 are part of this recent and older history of
11:32 am
racial discrimination and reflect a continued effort by texas officials to suppress minority political participation. thank you for your time and i'm happy to answer any questions of the committee. mr. raskin: thank you, ms. perales, for your testimony. finally, we will hear from the honorable diego bernal, who is, again, a representative and member of the mexican american legislative conference. mr. bernal: thank you, chairman. thank you for having us. the testimony of representative clardy and ms. perales cannot be in the same place. let me talk about a small section of the bill that would affect a voter. to get more to the policy itself. so here, let's say we have a voter who is 62. she prefers spanish.
11:33 am
isn't super comfortable with her english. let's call her senora nicole and she's always voted with an assistant and in this case her assistant would be me, her neighbor. i noticed on election day we have not spoken and so i go next door, knock on her door, she answers. hi. have you voted? she said she hasn'ted. ok. let's go vote. i'll help you like i always do. grab your keys. grab your chanclas, as we say. come out and i'll take you to the polling place. we go. when we get to the front of the line, the first thing i will encounter that's new is a new form i have to fill out and that form asks for my name, my address, my relationship to the voter, and it asks that i attest i haven't been paid by a candidate or campaign or a p.a.c. i don't know what the form is for. i don't know who gets it. i don't know if it's private. it takes time to fill out. in a neighborhood like ours, primarily latino, might add to the length of the line. we power through that. the next thing we encounter is
11:34 am
the oath of the assistant. there are three new things in the oath in a this bill would require. the first, generally, it's now under penalty of perjury which means a violation of it even without intent would result in a state jail felony. the next piece asks me to affirm that she has represented to me that the only reason why i am her assistant is because she cannot see, read, or write. in the past, a voter assistant was able to navigate the polling place, interact with poll workers. and that's gone. i have to simply translate. i have to say under penalty of perjury she's told me that's the only reason why i'm helping her. i've known her for years. i am not sure if i am about to perjure myself or commit a
11:35 am
crime. some people will say beyond this -- will stay beyond this point. some will go. let's say we get past that part of the oath. there is a third part of the oath that says i must attest and affirm that i did not coerce or persuade you -- and the senate version says encourage -- for her to choose me as her assistant. i recall the conversation we had on the front door. senora, have you voted? let's go. i will be your assistant. grab your stuff, meet me outside. did i persuade her? did i encourage her? did i coerce her? i'm not sure. at that point as i'm filling it out, i'm worried i may have and am about to break the law. again, some people will stay. but some people will go. let's say we get past that part and go to the actual voting machine. there, let's say she's asking me
11:36 am
a question which you can't really do but i'm just translating. all i can do is translate. that's it. i can't do anything else. i'm translating state board of education race and a school board race. it's difficult. we're not breaking the law. there is a partisan poll watcher in the polling place who now has free range and free roam to get close enough to any voter to see and hear election activity. that is the law. they don't know what we're saying but they may not like it. they may not like the tone. they may not like the language. they may not like the way we look. they are allowed to disrupt, to harass, to physically of mo, to push us a -- physically move, to push us away and the only thing they can do is give me a warning. because the law says, article 4, section 4.01, section g, page 11, starting on line 15, it
11:37 am
says -- a partisan poll watcher can break the election code or the penal code and the only thing the election judge can do to them is give them a warning. the election judge can only remove them if they themselves saw a second infraction. it doesn't matter if everyone in the polling place saw it themselves and reported it, the election judge has to see it them self to remove that partisan poll watcher. the manager at target has more latitude to protect their customers than election judge in texas would to protect voters under this bill. and some of the opponents may say, can't they call the police? yes, they can. they can call the police. but that takes time. the police have to come and assess the situation. voting at that polling place would stop or come to a halt. and just using my hometown of san antonio as an for example, there are over 300 polling places. the largest shift at any given
11:38 am
time of sapd is about 150 officers who have arguably better things to do. what happens to us? do we finish her caster her ballot -- casting her ballot? if we do does she come back? what's the word of mouth as that experience spreads like wildfire, bad chisme? that can't be who we are and the idea this bill makes voting easier in this instance, i don't see how. there are no cases of voter fraud relating to voter assistance. in county if a, just to give you numbers -- in fact, just to give you numbers and i'll wrap up -- mr. raskin: please. mr. bernal: the likelihood of voter fraud in texas is less than anyone of us being struck by lightning. mr. raskin: thank you,
11:39 am
representative bernal, for your excellent testimony. and members are very patient. i'll hold off on my questioning and allow mr. mfume to go. then we'll go directly to the ranking member. mr. mfume: thank you very much, mr. chair. and members of the committee. mr. chair, i want to thank you as i have done privately and repeatedly for holding this hearing and bringing us to this point. your leadership on this is very, very important. [indiscernible] and there is no real redundancy in talking something so near and dear to the fabric of this society as is voting. i also want to thank the state legislators who have come here. those who are also on the zoom with us electronically for your participation.
11:40 am
and if i might say, also, for your courage. this whole issue, mr. chairman, is an issue that has a lot of discussion about. one thing that's clear, unless we have real integrity in our system where everybody feels like their vote counts, we're never going to get to where we need to be. in fact, we will find ourselves repeating many of the problems and issues of the past. now, i don't want to be funny here but this is almost like the old yankee manager, yogi beret, once say -- berra, once said, deja vu all over again. voter intimidation and the burdens that will put on voters is something that's revisited itself in a mean and ugly way. years ago between the 1890's and
11:41 am
the 1960's, there were real efforts at voter intimidation and denial. it started with the good old grandfather clause that said even though you may be free you cannot vote unless your grandfather voted. well, your grandfather was a slave so he couldn't vote. and therefore, you couldn't vote. and when that became so ugly and intimidating, states changed up and created things known as the literacy test. where throughout that period of time up until 1965, in many states you had to tell how many bubbles were in a barf soap just -- bar of soap just to be deemed intelligent enough to go out and cast a vote. when that came under further scrutiny, states changed it and said, ok, well, now you have to be able to recite the
11:42 am
constitution from beginning to end to be able to be qualified to vote. i just think that it is ludicrous for us to think that somehow now the things we're facing, particularly in texas and elsewhere, are not akin to the same laws that were put in place with the same objective and the end vote, to suppress turnout and to, in many instances, deny the ability of all people to vote. now, i know that these state legislators who are here that came here because they honestly and dearly believe in this concept one person, one vote. i was shocked by some of my colleagues that the legislators from texas should go back home and do what they were elected to do, like they were somehow abdicating their responsibility
11:43 am
by, quote, denying a quorum. and yet, mr. chair, repeatedly in this committee and even on the floor of the house, there are attempts to deny a quorum because that's what you have the right to do. and you have the right to use every tool available as a legislator, whether you're in a city council, state legislature or congress to further your point. we do that all the time. i think it's a little dispurging -- disparjing to suggest -- disparaging to suggest they are doing that when they're using constitutional abilities and guidelines to do what they have to do. mr. chairman, i believe more than anything else that when we look at the disappearance of preclearance from the voting rights act, when we look at all the problems that started since then, we would not have been at this place had not the former president been declared the winner of the election in the
11:44 am
state of texas. that started an ugly ball rolling. and all of a sudden, there are these efforts to, quote, protect voters and protect their rights that did not exist, were not talked about, and did not get voted into law previously. this is a new phenomenon in an old ballgame and it's a phenomenon that cries out for us to pass the john lewis voting rights act and pass h.r. 1, the for the people act, so we can put to rest once and for all these types of attempts. i've exhausted my time, mr. chair. i, again, want to commend you. i want to commend the legislators and want to remind my colleagues that as legislators, we have every right to use what's in the constitution that we're governed by to advance our cause, even if it means denying a quorum. i yield back. mr. raskin: congressman mfume, thank you for your excellent
11:45 am
remarks. i turn it over now to my friend, the ranking member, mr. sessions, for his time for questioning. mr. sessions: thank you very much, chairman. i'd like to engage, perhaps mr. bernal, or mrs. perales, please. are ballots in texas in the language that a person would need them to have? in other words, english, spanish, chinese, are they available? mr. bernal: yes, sir. mr. sessions: they're available in the language of people. that's not backwards. that's pretty important. i'd like to ask you, mrs. perales, you said that texas really had been held in discrimination since -- for a number of years and implied that texas was discriminatory in their practices. but isn't it true that
11:46 am
preclearance was required and certainly the clinton and obama department of justice scrutiny of the bills that every time would relate to the laws and the redistricting of texas would be reviewed by preclearance of democrat and republican department of justices? ms. perales: well, representative, i am not what you're asking. it depended on what president was in office at the time. but certainly doesn't subtract from the fact that when we brought these claims in federal court -- and both of the cases i mentioned were claims successfully brought by maldf, my organization, the u.s.
11:47 am
supreme court held that texas had in its laws discriminated against latino voters. i'd like to add an answer to that -- mr. sessions: what year was that? ms. perales: the cases i mentioned in my testimony. 2006. in the case i argued before the supreme court. and also in 2018 on a claim that maldf brought racial gerrymandering against latino voters in 2018. the answer that representative bernal provided earlier needs to have something added to it which is that although texas is forced by federal law to provide bilingual ballots, section 208 of the voting rights act requires a broader scope of assistance. and the fifth circuit tells us that in the case of chinese americans. a bi-lynn rale ballot is -- a bilingual ballot is not enough. they have the right to take an
11:48 am
assister with them to help them navigate the polling place, interact with poll workers, read and understand -- mr. sessions: thank you very much. mr. clardy, can you please address that issue what the bills would be before us? i have a disabled son. i have been with him. he marked his own ballot, but i helped him. could you please talk to us what is before us with these bills related to the -- what the gentlewoman speaks of? mr. clardy: thanks. i'll use this word in its truest sense. i think very liberal laws. as it relates to the disabled people be able to vote. in the instance of your son, we have curb side voting. it will be available throughout the state where they can drive up, an election official will come out, help assist, and provide that ballot and then those people who are eligible for curb side voting be able to vote.
11:49 am
that's been our law for some time. likewise, those individuals are available. they have the right. unlike most other states i think in the union to cast a mail-in ballot. they register, they request the mail-in ballot. it will come to them and they will vote and return. if they choose to, they can bring it in and have that ballot dropped off. mr. sessions: thank you. representative clardy, are you aware of the case in limestone county, texas, where this person was charged with 134 felony counts of acting as an agent of election fraud by putting in applications and forging signatures, are you aware of that, sir? would this be addressed in the new law? this happened in november of 2020. mr. clardy: congressman sessions, i am not familiar with
11:50 am
the specifics of that case. as you know, it's inappropriate for us to talk about pending matters. there is another pending -- there are 50 cases pending right now. that's just from the office of attorney general that have hundreds and hundreds of counts that exist. there's another approaching 400 cases are being investigated. those 50 i mentioned, those were presented to a grand jury and they've been true billed and indictments of issue. mr. sessions: thank you very much, sir. mr. chairman, i'd like to engage in the record and place in the record these 400-some cases that are being presently handled in the state of texas for voter fraud. mr. raskin: great, without objection at all. under the current voting fraud statute. mr. sessions: thank you. mr. raskin: i'd invite debbie wasserman schultz for her five minutes of questioning. ms. wasserman schultz: thank you so much, mr. chairman.
11:51 am
similar to what we see now in texas, right after the 2020 election, election supervisor and former governor desantis praised the election process. the way florida did it inspires confidence. i think that's how elections should be run. desantis changed his tune because donald trump was emotionally incapable of accepting the results of the 2020 election and he needed to whip the fringe of his party into a frenzy to further his own aspirations. the result was a florida voter suppression bill that mirrors what we see proposed in texas. making voter registration harder, limiting voting by mail and curbing the secure ballot dropoff boxes many of the floridians used in 2020. these blatant anti-democratic bills are in search of a problem, at the very least. we saw a rare expansion of ballot access. we not only allowed people to stay safe but gave flexibility to communities of color who face
11:52 am
voting obstacles. representative thompson, it's so good to see you again. harris county, home of houston, which you represent, led the way in expanding opportunities to voting last year. so my question for you is, with all that harris county did to make it easier for folks to vote during the pandemic, were there any resulting voting irregularities that resulted later? mr. raskin: that's for you, ms. thompson. ms. thompson: i do not recall any at all, debbie. ms. wasserman schultz: i don't recall hearing any either. so it's helpful to have you underscore that. representative collier, is it fair to say these expansion were particularly valuable to black and latino voters in texas? ms. collier: yes, thank you. absolutely. we found that african-americans often have two jobs. and so being able to vote during a 24-hour period is very helpful. being able to have drive-thru
11:53 am
voting is also helpful for those that have children. these are mechanisms and i am not aware of any instances of voter fraud that have been prosecuted related to those mechanisms. ms. wasserman schultz: thank you. the texas legislation that we're discussing today, my friends, would create criminal penalties for local election officials who send absentee ballot applications to all registered voters. these are the priorities of the texas state government. harris county attempted to do last year before the effort was blocked by the texas supreme court. in florida, senate bill 90 also prohibits local and state officials, they double down on what was already prohibited in florida by saying that mail ballots could not be sent to voters unless one was requested. ms. perales, can you explain how communities of color are particularly affected by a restriction like this on mail-in voting? ms. perales: well, in texas, we have mail-in voting available,
11:54 am
just to be clear, for those who are disabled, can't get to the polling place, and those who are over 65. so we're talking, generally, among all communities about predominantly older population. and -- ms. wasserman schultz: sorry. just to be clear. i'm asking you about a restriction on not being able to proactively for a local official to not proactively send out a ballot? ms. perales: yes. and my point is when you are an older individual, it can be particularly challenging to navigate the request of a mail ballot. a lot of folks don't have access to online. and the process can be confusing. to have a local election official who can determine who is eligible affirmatively send those applications is going to particularly benefit black, latino, and low-income voters. ms. wasserman schultz: so here's the -- thank you. here's the icing on the cake of this legislation. political parties in particular would still be allowed to send
11:55 am
out ballot applications even if it's outlawed for local officials. so ms. perales, how do you explain the discrepancy and treatment and wouldn't that result make it harder to vote? and then representative collier, if you were writing a bill to combat voter fraud, would you have started by targeting local election officials? ms. perales: with respect to making it more difficult, yes. if someone receives an application for ballot by mail and they want to fill it out and choose to fill it out, that is going to make voting more accessible for them. there is no reason on the face of the earth to prohibit a local election clerk who has all of the correct information from sending out ballot applications and, yet, at the same time, permit party partisan folks within their organizations to be able to do that same mailing. ms. wasserman schultz: thank
11:56 am
you. mr. chairman, can representative collier answer before my time is turned over? mr. raskin: yes and then your time is up. ms. wasserman schultz: thank you so much. ms. collier: thank you so much. i would say, yes, local control is absolutely important, because those individuals who are on the ground have a better grasp of what is going on in their community and can address the needs of their community. ms. wasserman schultz: i appreciate it. i yield back the balance of my time. mr. raskin: all right. i thank the gentlelady. i now recognize representative nancy mace for her five minutes of questioning. ms. mace: thank you, mr. chairman. and i want to thank ms. thompson. i was a state lawmaker for three years before i came to congress. i represented the first congressional district of south carolina. south carolina has had its own history, very bad history with black south carolinians, black and brown african-americans. i recently took a vote to remove one that wrote the dred scott
11:57 am
opinion, black and brown and african-americans could not become citizens of the united states of america, i voted to remove his bust. someone like hampton who encouraged the murder of over 150 black south carolinians during his run for governor. so i appreciate your comments about the 1960's. i was not around then, but i watched and read a lot of the history and seen the videos and seen the moments of violence against black america. so i applaud your work on that. my understanding is that you were elected in 1972 in texas, is that correct? ms. thompson: that is correct. ms. mace: i applaud you for making history, i would imagine, in texas and being a strong voice for black men and black women. coming from south carolina, we got -- we've got voter i.d. and i'm assuming texas is the same way, do y'all need i.d. to buy alcohol when you're purchasing at the store?
11:58 am
ms. thompson: yes. to be sure -- ms. mace: do you need an i.d. to buy cigarettes in texas? ms. thompson: you have to show an i.d. ms. mace: do you need an i.d. when you are getting a job and trying to get on payroll in texas? ms. thompson: yes. ms. mace: do you need an i.d. to go to the pharmacy and get a prescription in texas? ms. thompson: it depends on the prescription. ms. mace: but do you need an i.d. for some prescriptions in texas? ms. thompson: yes. ms. mace: do you need an i.d. to get social security services in texas? ms. thompson: you do. ms. mace: do you need an i.d. to rent an apartment in texas? ms. thompson: yes. ms. mace: do you need an i.d. if you're going to buy a house and finance it via a mortgage in texas? ms. thompson: yes. ms. mace: do you need an i.d. in texas if you are going to board
11:59 am
an aircraft and fly commercial? ms. thompson: yes. ms. mace: did you fly a charter plane? ms. thompson: yes. ms. mace: do you need an i.d.? ms. thompson: yes. ms. mace: did you need an i.d. to get in the building here today? ms. thompson: yes. ms. mace: do you need an i.d. in texas to open a bank account? to cash your check if you're working. do you know, representative thompson, how many -- what percentage of blacks in texas, black and brown african-americans are registered to vote? ms. thompson: a huge percentage. ms. mace: 70%. do you know what average black and brown texans have voted on average during the last election? >> going to leave this voting rights here. the u.s. house is about to gavel in. a long time commitment to bringing you gavel-to-gavel coverage of congress. continue watching this

8 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on