The session has been unable to start because they fled the state, denying a quorum in the legislature. As I have already explained in a previous op-ed for Fox News, the misleading and outrageous claims they have made and that they repeated at the press conference about the reforms have no connection whatsoever to reality.
Two of the speakers leading the press conference were Rep. Ron Reynolds and Rep. Nicole Collier, the vice chairman and chairwoman, respectively, of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus. Reynolds continued the false and historically embarrassing claim that the proposed reforms, such as extending the state’s voter ID requirement for in-person voting to absentee ballots, are “Jim Crow 2.0” and “Jim Crow revisited.” In reality, the ID requirement is easy and simple to meet and is overwhelmingly supported by all voters, including Black voters.
He also raged at the proposal to strengthen the ability of poll watchers to effectively observe everything going on in a polling place (except the actual casting of a ballot by a voter). He claimed this would allow “partisan” poll watchers like the “Proud Boys” and those who were at the Capitol on Jan. 6 to supposedly “intimidate voters and keep them from voting.”
This is a truly bizarre claim for several reasons, starting with the fact that virtually all poll watchers are “partisan” because they are appointed by the candidates of both political parties, including his own Democratic Party, or by the party organizations themselves.
But most importantly, Texas law – just like the laws in every other state that authorize poll watchers – do not allow observers to interfere in any way with the voting and election process. Intimidating a voter is a criminal offense under both state and federal law and that would not change under the proposed election reforms.
All the proposal does is ensure that observes are able to actually observe what is going on and are not prevented from doing so by partisan election and precinct officials. His highly emotional claims about what would happen if this election reform became law in Texas are pure hyperbole.
Rep. Collier claimed that Texas has the “most restrictive voting laws in the country” and is now trying to layer even more restrictions on top of that. This claim is also factually wrong. For example, Texas was one of the first states in the nation to institute early voting in the late 1980s; Delaware, the home of President Joe Biden, currently has no early voting although the state just passed a law to institute it in 2022. She also repeated Rep. Reynolds’ false claim about the dangers of “partisan” poll watchers, again ignoring the actual Texas law that governs observers as well as the language in the proposed bill.
The oddest thing about these fabricated charges was the site the Texas Black Caucus picked to hold the press conference. The Alexandria Library was the location in 1939 of one of the first sit-ins when a civil rights pioneer, Samuel Wilbert Tucker, organized a protest of the whites-only policy that prevented Black Virginians from getting into and using the library. Collier, Reynolds, and other speakers kept trying to compare what they were doing to the brave and admirable work of Samuel Wilber Tucker.
But trying to compare a segregationist policy that kept Black Americans out of a public library in 1939 to an election bill that tries to protect the security and integrity of the election process for all voters and which has provisions that voters – including Black voters – support falls completely flat.
It is preposterous to equate the horrific segregationist rules of the old South to a law requiring someone to have a valid excuse like sickness or disability to use an absentee ballot, or requiring someone to write in the serial number of their free state voter ID card or the last four digits of their Social Security number to authenticate their identity when they request an absentee ballot.
Not only do the American people as a whole know that, but I have no doubt that the voters of Texas do, too.