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Politics

Texas Democratic lawmakers again urge Senate to act on federal voting legislation

A sign says "official polling location."
LM Otero
/
Associated Press
The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would ensure states with a history of discrimination get federal approval for new election laws and redistricting maps.

After Senate Republicans blocked a federal voting bill last week, Texas Democratic lawmakers are now calling on the U.S. Senate to pass a different one that could come up for a vote as soon as this week.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would essentially restore the preclearance provision taken out of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in 2013. It ensures states with a history of discrimination get federal approval for new election laws and redistricting maps.

State Rep. Nicole Collier, who chairs the Texas Legislative Black Caucus, said that’s sorely needed in Texas, where Republican-drawn political maps for congressional, statehouse, and state Board of Education districts just got approved by Gov. Greg Abbott Monday.

She added that’s despite the 2020 census’ findings, showing 95% of voters of color drove the state’s population growth over the last decade.

“Now I’m no mathematician but a state that experiences 95% of its growth from Blacks, Hispanics, and Asian Americans, seems to me that they would see an increase in representation, but we didn’t see that. We saw a decrease,” said the Fort Worth Democrat during a news conference Tuesday. “In fact the Anglos, who had the slowest growth, had the highest number of seats added.”

Meanwhile on the national level, U.S. Rep. Al Green, D-Houston, said after the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 there was a rise in diverse representation among members of Congress. The Houston Democrat said over the last few decades there have been huge gains in Black, Latino, Asian, and women lawmakers.

“The Voting Rights Act has made a difference,” Green said. “The empirical evidence is there for all to see who would see it. We have to get the Senate to understand that without that preclearance these numbers are going to go down.”

Last week Senate Republicans blocked the Freedom To Vote Act, another federal voting rights bill that included establishing national rules for running elections and early voting and made Election Day a federal holiday.

Texas Republican Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz joined their GOP colleagues in blocking that latest attempt to pass the bill in the U.S. Senate.

Speaking on the floor last week, Cornyn called the latest version of that legislation “Democrats’ partisan power grab over our elections.”

Copyright 2021 KERA. To see more, visit KERA.

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