TEXAS – Houston area political leaders weighed in Tuesday on Democrats in the Texas House of Representatives leaving the state for Washington D.C., in an attempt to block a quorum needed to vote on a Republican-backed bill on election reform.
“It’s not about fleeing. It’s about utilizing one of their tools,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “I was in the legislature for 27 years, and you have to have a quorum. That’s one of the tools.”
Turner accused Gov. Greg Abbott and other Republican leaders of attempting to suppress votes in communities in which Democrats hold a majority, like Harris County.
“When the majority of elected officials decide to bully something into effect that harms people across the board, and especially, people of color, people with disabilities, women, you name it,” Turner said. “I want somebody to stand up, and they should not be vilified for standing up to protect this democratic process.”
Bishop James Dixon, pastor of The Community of Faith Church and president of the NAACP Houston-branch, said the right to vote is sacred, moral, and at risk of being suppressed by Republicans.
Dixon welcomed other faith leaders from Houston to Dallas, Beaumont, and Austin to his church to speak out against what they called “proposed voter suppression legislation.”
Among the speakers was Crystal Mason, a Tarrant County resident, who faces a five-year sentence for casting a provisional ballot in the 2016 election while on supervised release for a federal conviction.
Mason maintains she didn’t know she was ineligible to vote in Texas.
Dixon and other faith leaders said Mason is being used for the Republicans’ political gain.
“We believe that this issue epitomizes what happens when our misguided laws and misguided policies are able to inflict punishment on innocent, vulnerable individuals,” Dixon said.
Both Dixon and Turner urged Democrats to stand strong in their fight against silencing communities of color, people with disabilities, and others they said who would be impacted.
However, Republicans maintain their proposed legislation does not suppress votes, but instead, ensures the integrity of the elections process in Texas, a state with the strictest election laws in the nation.
Statewide, Republicans blasted Democrats for walking off the job.
Cindy Siegel, chair of the Harris County Republican Party, said Democrats were elected to legislate and should be in Austin doing so.
Siegel added Democrats have been childish with their actions by leaving other bills that are of priority at risk of not being addressed.
“I believe all Americans should want our elections to be secure. The process should be transparent, to be fair. But the legislature, the governor laid out several pieces of legislation, and I think those pieces of legislation deserve a fair hearing and a vote,” Siegel said.
Siegel stressed Texas’ legislative session is not long. That’s why she accused Democrats of getting in the way of other crucial legislation that needs to be addressed.