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Laredo, Texas, Voices Support for Federal Voting Rights Bill

Several state lawmakers have voiced their support for the voting rights bill that passed the U.S. House of Representatives last week. But the bill must still pass the Senate and remains highly partisan.

(TNS) — Local officials in the Texas state government voiced support this week for the voting rights bill passed last Tuesday by the U.S. House of Representatives which is designed to support many of the provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that have been taken down by the Supreme Court.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R. 4) was passed fully along partisan lines as only Democrats voted for the bill to pass with no Republican support. As all the local leaders are Democratic, they all tended to support the measure while also stating it is no time to celebrate as much work still has to be done.

"The passage of H.R. 4 by the U.S. House is historic, and I am proud to have been in the U.S. Capitol with several of my colleagues as the bill was passed," Rep. Richard Raymond (TX-D-42) said. "Now, the bill will go to the U.S. Senate. The Senate must pass it in order for it to become law. I will continue working to get support for passage of this landmark legislation. I have been in meetings with several U.S. Senators including U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Joe Manchin who will be pivotal and instrumental in passage of this law."

One of Raymond's colleagues who did not leave the state in protest for the bill also said he is firmly against the policy being proposed by Texas Legislature Republicans by calling it unnecessary.

"While I strongly believe in fair and secure elections, I do not support the current voting rights bill up before the legislature," said Rep. Tracy King (D-80), who is also a Democrat and represents the areas of Dimmit, Frio, Uvalde, Webb, Zapata and Zavala counties. "Considered by many as one of the most restrictive voting rights bills in the country, I believe the bill is wholly unnecessary. At its best, it attempts to address unfounded election security allegations at the great expense of people's voting rights. At its worst, it is a poorly veiled effort to intimidate minority voters and reduce overall election participation."

As for the Democrats that left the state, King said he believes his colleagues know how to best represent the people and interests of their districts as they continue the fight in the nation's capital.

Raymond continues to call for Democratic leaders that are back in the state legislature to continue opposing and even leaving the state once again if necessary to break quorum.

"I wish all of my Democratic colleagues in the Texas House would do all they could to stop this harmful legislation, including breaking quorum again," Raymond said. "Right now, not all members are willing to do so. That is their right. But I believe someday, either soon or with the passage of time, they will come to regret not standing up and fighting for all Americans' voting rights in the same way so many of our civil rights forefathers and foremothers did, many of them surviving beatings and bombings and many of them giving their lives. I feel very strongly about this issue, but I cannot make others feel as strongly if they do not already."

King said he will continue doing his part to oppose the bill by continuing to vote against it. He also said the bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives is the best way to protect voting rights amid the Texas bill eventually passing along partisan lines.

"Because Texas has a long, documented history of discrimination when drawing district maps, I support the John Lewis Voting Rights Bill," King said. "That bill would reinstate the preclearance provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and require Texas, along with other states with a history of discrimination, to obtain clearance from the Department of Justice when making certain changes to voting laws or district maps."

Judith Zaffirni, who represents District 21 in the state senate, also voiced support for the congressional bill and said she hopes it is the path to stopping the Texas restrictive voting bill. She also agreed with the idea that the state bill is intended to stop minorities, people with disabilities and the elderly from being able to vote freely.

"I'm delighted that the U.S. House of Representatives passed the John Lewis Voting Rights Act on Tuesday, especially because our right to vote is the most important and sacred cornerstone of our democracy," Zaffirini said. "What's more, it is a right that women and some persons of color in the U.S. were prohibited from exercising for many years and for which men and women were jailed or killed for trying to secure. Today, 56 years after the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed by President Lyndon Johnson, we're seeing a nationwide effort to make it harder for persons of color to vote. The passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act would reinstate some of the provisions in the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013 and would recommit us to guaranteeing equal voting access for all Americans."

While Zaffirini was happy to see the bill passed by the House of Representatives, she believes it will face stern opposition in the Senate and will require a long battle to get passed. Many Republicans, including Texas Senator John Cornyn, have been outspoken about the bill calling it disastrous and a way for the federal government to control elections.

"Democrats aim to overrule state voting laws in an unconstitutional grab for partisan advantage," Cornyn said.

Just like King, however, Zaffirini continues to stand firmly against the Texas bill and will continue voting against it no matter how many times it is proposed.

"I voted against this bill three times, once in the 87th regular legislative session and during both special sessions," Zaffirini said. "Because Republicans have majorities in both legislative chambers and hold the governorship, the bill unfortunately and inevitably will pass. Accordingly, I proposed 13 amendments to mitigate the harm done by the bill to persons of color and persons with disabilities, four of which were adopted in the Senate based on their acceptance by the bill's author Senator Bryan Hughes (R- Mineola)."

King, who continues to work at the state legislature, said he is continuing to focus on other issues outside of the voting bill.

"I support certain items on the call, such as property tax relief and the 13th check for retired teachers, but I also believe those issues are being used in this case as a foil to maintain a quorum and pass the voting restriction bill," King said. "Ultimately, I think the legislature accomplished the bulk of its task during the regular session."

Zaffirini said dealing with issues related to helping people overcome the pandemic is her main focus as they continue to work in the state legislature during the special session. She also wants to see work done on fixing the state electrical grid.

Raymond was staying in Washington through Saturday to participate in events calling for more support of the national bill.

"I am currently in Washington, D.C., and I will participate in a national voting rights event at the Lincoln Memorial this weekend," Raymond said. "It is being done on the same day, August 28, as when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous 'I Have A Dream' speech in 1963."


(c)2021 the Laredo Morning Times (Laredo, Texas) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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