AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Lawmakers and big Texas-based businesses are weighing in about their concerns regarding legislation aimed at tightening voting restrictions in Texas after one bill passed in the Senate this week.
Senate Bill 7, which tightens restrictions on vote-by-mail and bans most drive-thru voting, passed in the Texas Senate early Thursday morning. A few hours later, a Texas House committee started hearing testimony on another bill aimed at tightening voting rules, House Bill 6.
More than 200 people signed up to speak on the bill. Testimony lasted more than 20 hours, ending just before 6:00 a.m. Friday morning.
“There’s a lot of deep concern from all over Texas about this bill,” said State Rep. John Bucy (D-Austin), who serves on the Elections Committee. “It’s gonna make it harder for people to vote, especially individuals with a disability, individuals who their English is not their first language and our friends in black and brown communities,” Bucy added.
After hearing all the testimony, from people both for and against the bill, lawmakers left HB 6 pending in committee.
But regular citizens aren’t the only ones weighing in. Thursday evening, American Airlines, based in Fort Worth, announced its opposition to SB 7 and similar legislation. The company said it is standing up for the rights of its team members and customers.
“Any legislation dealing with how elections are conducted must ensure ballot integrity and security while making it easier to vote, not harder. At American, we believe we should break down barriers to diversity, equity and inclusion in our society – not create them,” the company said in a statement.
Other companies that spoke up about the matter include Dell Technologies, based in Round Rock, and AT&T and Southwest Airlines, both based in Dallas.
“In a state that relies on big business, we need their voice, we need more big businesses to speak up,” Bucy said. “If we don’t have the votes as Democrats to stop this legislation, we rely on the people of Texas showing up and that includes our business partners that call Texas home.”
Bucy says his main concern is with the language in HB 6 that tightens rules for voters who need assistance with their ballot. He said the current process for voters who get the assistance of a translator or reader is to check a box saying you had assistance. HB 6 requires a form to be filled out. Bucy is concerned people’s ballots will be ineligible if they are unaware of new processes.
“The result is that the ballot would be thrown out and those Texans who made that honest mistake would be disenfranchised from their right to vote,” Bucy said.
Republicans say these bills are about election integrity, and polls show GOP voters are concerned about election cheating. Bucy said the legislation is the wrong approach.
“Well, I would first reference back to our first Elections Committee hearing of this session, when keeping room with the Secretary of State so that our election, our elections in Texas in 2020, were safe and secure,” Bucy said. “So I’m not sure what problem they’re trying to solve based on the words of the Secretary of State’s office.”
Bucy points to a different solution for ensuring election integrity: online voter registration.
“I think if we truly want safe and secure elections, the best way to do that is through modernization,” Bucy said. “Online voter registration is more accurate, it’s more safe and it’s more secure.”