HOUSTON – Annual addresses made by two high-ranking Houston-area leaders are being moved to a new venue as the debate over voting bills moving through the Texas Legislature continues.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced Wednesday that their respective “state of” addresses that are normally given at the Greater Houston Partnership are being relocated. The leaders said silence by the Partnership on House Bill 6 and Senate Bill 7, which would change the way elections are run in the state, has led them to the decision.
Both Hidalgo and Turner have been outspoken critics of the legislation.
Turner said the bills would sanction partisan poll watchers to intimidate voters and reduce access to the polls.
“How many times do we have to continue to fight these battles?” Turner asked.
“We’re still fighting for access to the voting booth today,” he added.
Hidalgo said the bills seek to usher in a new era of Jim Crow, and specifically attack Harris County.
“I’m watching in horror as some try to make democracy itself a wedge issue,” she said.
Hidalgo and Turner said they are calling on the Greater Houston Partnership, the largest chamber of commerce in the Houston area, to allow a vote by its members on whether to take a stand on the legislation.
In a written statement, the GHP said clear consensus on the stance the organization will take on the bills does not exist.
The full statement follows:
“The Greater Houston Partnership is proud of the important work we do with the City of Houston and Harris County, and with Mayor Turner and Judge Hidalgo specifically, as we work together to create jobs and opportunity for all Houstonians.
“We regret they have cancelled these long-standing events, which our members greatly enjoy.
“As Mayor Turner and Judge Hidalgo expressed, they are disappointed that the Partnership has not joined them in taking a formal position against the voting bills being considered in Austin.
“We trust that Mayor Turner and Judge Hidalgo respect that the Partnership has its own process by which our 140 member board takes policy positions on behalf of our 1,000 member companies, a process that requires a clear board consensus which does not exist on the legislation. As in this case, this process does not always lead to alignment with our elected officials.”
Proponents have said the bills are aimed at making elections more secure and cracking down on voter fraud.
According to the Texas Attorney General’s website, the state has successfully prosecuted 534 election fraud offenses against 155 people since 2005.
Turner said his State of the City address will be given at Houston First, the corporation that operates convention facilities in the city. Hidalgo said an announcement about her State of the County address will be made in the future.