AUSTIN (Texas Tribune) – Claudia Torres-Yañez walked into the Texas Capitol at 7:30 a.m. Saturday to testify against Republican efforts to impose new voting restrictions in the state.
Fifteen hours later, he was still waiting to be heard by lawmakers.
Republicans ’second attempt at further enforcing state voting rules drew a crowd to the Capitol on a Saturday morning when hundreds of Texans – most of them in opposition to the legislation – appeared to speak before state lawmakers in the United States. overlapping Senate and House hearings on similar bills.
Saturday night, 295 signed up to testify at the hearing. Many of them have already registered their seats in line by 8am. But public testimony in the home committee began Sunday at 1:41 am, 17-and-a-half hours after the meeting began.
Torres-Yañez’s first attempt to part with the legislative process in the spring ended in disappointment as a state representative. Briscoe Cain, who chairs the House Election Commission, abruptly suspended a hearing on an earlier draft of the vote law after refusing to answer questions from a fellow Democrat. But Cain, a Republican in Deer Park, committed a procedural error that prevented the audience from attending. Torres-Yañez, director of human resources, was one of more than 100 members of the public who were revealed without being able to testify.
“Seeing I always had a chance – unfortunately – I wouldn’t pass,” said Torres-Yañez, who opposes the Republican proposal. Iddf his time in the Capitol basement at 11:30 pm, he said he intended to hold out.
The legislation on the table is in many ways similar to the controversial GOP-backed bill that failed during the regular legislative session that ended in May after House Democrats organized quarrels to break the quorum before the House can finally vote on the bill.
In Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 3, Republicans revived proposals to curb local voting initiatives such as drive-through and 24-hour voting, further tighten the rules on postal voting, strengthen access for partisan polls and ban officials local elections in active implementation. to request ballots by mail.
In the Senate committee discussing the legislation, the bill hearing progressed at a faster pace, but dozens of Texans still waited well past midnight to plead their cases before the committee.
Torres-Yañez was called to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee at approximately 9:30 p.m., partially in his handwritten note during the two minutes he was given.
Like others waiting to testify, he had to wait a long time on the house committee. For the second time in their efforts to move their proposals forward, lawmakers would push the considerations late into the night and into the early morning.
House registration numbers showed that 484 members of the public came to the Capitol to register a position on the chamber bill, with 407 marking themselves as opposed to the legislation, 65 in support and 12 neutral.
The Senate hearing began at 11 a.m. and public testimony began a few hours later and continued until early Sunday morning. While lawmakers worked on the list of witnesses who registered to testify early Sunday, their list narrowed as they cited the names of Texas who had left the Capitol.
The House hearing began at 8 am, but the committee spent hours discussing the GOP’s priority bond legislation. When lawmakers finally began considering the bill at about 5:30 p.m., they spent more than four hours questioning the bill’s author, a state representative. Andrew Murr, a Republican Junction. Many of these interviews were conducted by Democrats on the committee for whom the hearing committee provided the only opportunity to question Murr at length. Debate in the House of Representatives is limited in time.
But the long exams forced Texans to wait hours and hours for their turn for the commission – longer than many could handle.
The House Committee voted early Sunday morning to continue the legislation throughout the House. In a statement after the vote, Rep. Chris TurnerD-Grand Prairie, chairman of the Texas House Democratic Caucus, criticized the audience, saying, “You just can’t make that up: Republicans pass anti-voter legislation overnight to ban Texans out to change from one vote to the next. “
For advocates of people with disabilities, the special session gave them the first opportunity during the vote law debate to bring their voting experience to the legislative forefront in greater numbers. The first round of ballot fighting began before vaccination became widely available, making a trip to the Capitol too risky for medically vulnerable people.
Some of the voters with disabilities encouraged to come to the Capitol to testify got their time in front of lawmakers in the Senate, where public testimony began earlier in the day, but others went home before turning in the House committee, said Chase Bearden, deputy executive director of the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities. A voter who testified had to leave before he was called because the bus service at home stopped at midnight.
“Each [voter] have their own unique story, “Bearden said.” If you’re talking about politics, but you don’t have real experience, you don’t have the information you need. “
Hoping to open up the legislative process to more Texas every day, MOVE Texas has organized training on how to give public testimony effectively. On Saturday, the organization focused on increasing youth participation in elections and guided 50 participants to the Capitol, offering advice on how to register to testify and where to wait.
One witness was so committed to testifying that they left to make a change and return, said Amber Mills, an attorney for MOVE Texas. But when the committee hearing lasted well into the night, about 20 of the groups stayed at the Capitol at 11 p.m.
The rooms already designated as landings, which housed some people waiting to testify, sat dark and empty long before the house was to begin public testimony. As Saturday returns on Sunday, members of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority — dressed in the sorority’s traditional black dress — sit in the committee room in the same seats they would arrive at the Capitol at 6 a.m. claim.
Michelle Brown, one of the group’s leaders, said nearly 50 sorority members had traveled from across the state to testify about the legislation, but only 19 had arrived. Those who left would work to submit their testimonies in writing.
“All we want is a chance to just make our voices heard in the electoral process,” Brown said around 1 am while still waiting to testify.
As a state rep. Trent Ashby, the chairman of the house committee considering the legislation, worked to clean up seats in the committee’s hearing room for those waiting to testify.
“If you were here at 8 o’clock raise your hand,” said Ashby, R-Lukfin.
A collection of red riding handles.
This article originally appeared in the Texas Tribune at www.texastribune.org. The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, fairly media organization that educates – and engages with – Texans on public policy, politics, government, and issues throughout the state.