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Texas mayors urge U.S. Senate to pass federal voting rights legislation

Activists listen while mayors speak to the press outside the Tornillo Port of Entry in Tornillo, Texas.
Brendan Smialowski
AFP/Getty Images
Activists listen while mayors speak to the press outside the Tornillo Port of Entry in Tornillo, Texas.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler is among 151 mayors across the country urging the U.S. Senate to take action this month on voting rights legislation.

The nonpartisan U.S. Conference of Mayors sent a letter Monday to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., urging passage of the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which the House of Representatives approved last year.

“Voting rights are under historic attack and our very democracy is threatened,” they wrote, citing nearly three dozen new voting laws passed recently by 19 states that restrict access to the ballot.

Eight other Texans signed the letter: Arlington Mayor Jim Ross, Brownsville Mayor Trey Mendez, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson, DeSoto Mayor Rachel L. Proctor, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, Port Arthur Mayor Thurman 'Bill' Bartie, and San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg.

The legislation they want approved would override aspects of state voting laws, including Senate Bill 1, which the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature passed last year. The sweeping legislation rolls back local voting initiatives meant to make it easier to vote, sets new rules for voting by mail, and boosts protections for partisan poll watchers, among other provisions.

GOP lawmakers in state legislatures across the U.S. initiated the voting law changes because of false claims of fraud during the 2020 presidential election. Former President Donald Trump and his Republican allies continue to claim the election was stolen from Trump despite no evidence of widespread voter fraud.

“Their actions are blatantly political and against everything that we Americans stand for,” said Mayor Proctor in a statement.

“It’s the worst kind of injustice and it is why my fellow Mayors and I have joined together to take a stand for what is right,” she added.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors says the federal legislation in the U.S. Senate would help reduce voter suppression by creating national standards to ensure voting access. That includes a mandate for early voting, allowing all voters to cast mail-in ballots, and making Election Day a federal holiday.

Schumer signaled this week he would call a vote to scale back filibuster rules in the upper chamber, if Republicans once again block the bills from moving forward this month.
Copyright 2022 The Texas Newsroom.

Joseph Leahy anchors morning newscasts for NPR's statewide public radio collaborative, Texas Newsroom. He began his career in broadcast journalism as a reporter for St. Louis Public Radio in 2011. The following year, he helped launch Delaware's first NPR station, WDDE, as an afternoon newscaster and host. Leahy returned to St. Louis in 2013 to anchor local newscasts during All Things Considered and produce news on local and regional issues. In 2016, he took on a similar role as the local Morning Edition newscaster at KUT in Austin, before moving over to the Texas Newsroom.
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