AUSTIN, Texas — Opposition to Texas Republicans' proposed voting restrictions bill came out in full force at the state Capitol on Saturday.
Former presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke and former HUD Secretary Julian Castro joined several civil rights groups to protest Senate Bill 7.
O'Rourke said the bill, which includes a ban on counties sending unsolicited applications to vote by mail, is a big mistake and will make voting a lot harder for Texans.
"Remember, this is the hardest state in which to cast a ballot,” said O’Rourke. “That is not an opinion of mine. You can read journals and scientific studies that look at all the 50 states, and they find it because we don't have online voter registration places, hundreds of polling place closures, racial gerrymandering of our jurisdictions and harshest voter ID laws, among many other problems. It's harder to cast a ballot here than anywhere else, and Republicans here are about to make it even harder."
It passed the House 78-64 on Friday and now heads back to the Senate. They can't become laws unless legislators make compromises and decide on one final version of the bill.
Early voting hours, drive-thru voting and poll watching could all be affected, but the final version approved by the House left out some far-reaching restrictions opposed by advocates for people with disabilities and local officials from the state’s largest counties. One of those measures would have required people assisting voters to disclose the reason a voter might need help, even if for medical reasons.
As passed by the Senate, the bill requires large counties to redistribute polling places under a formula that could move sites away from areas with large Hispanic and Black populations.
Former presidential candidate Julian Castro was also at the rally and said he wants Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act to fight restrictive voting legislation at the federal level.
"If these Republicans in Texas won't make sure that everybody has convenient access to the ballot box, then we're going to go to D.C. and make sure that everybody has good access to the ballot box,” Castro said.
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