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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.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors is urging the Senate to approve voting rights legislation to override new restrictions imposed by Texas and other Republican-led states.

Eight Texans are among 151 mayors across the country urging the U.S. Senate to take action this month on voting rights legislation. The non-partisan U.S. Conference of Mayors sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Monday specifically urging passage of the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which the U.S. 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.

The Texans who signed onto the letter are Arlington Mayor Jim Ross, Austin Mayor Steve Adler, 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 federal legislation they want to see 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 falsely 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 DeSoto Mayor Rachel L. 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,” Proctor 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.

Senate Majority Leader 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 KERA. To see more, visit KERA.

Joseph Leahy | The Texas Newsroom