Sen. Ellis files voting rights legislation; reflects on tomorrow’s 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday”

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(Austin, TX) // Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) releases the following statement regarding tomorrow’s 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” part of the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama:

“‘Bloody Sunday’ played a pivotal role in the long and painful struggle for civil rights and equal opportunities for all Americans,” said Senator Ellis. “Hundreds of heroes stood together 50 years ago, willing to sacrifice to make our democracy stronger and truly representative. This anniversary continues to stand as a lasting reminder that when we the people lock arms, stand up for what is right, and make our voices heard, we can move our nation and the quality of our democracy forward.”

“Unfortunately, that struggle is by no means over. We still have many challenges to face, both nationally and here in Texas, before we can reach our common goal. The advances secured by the sacrifices in the past are still under attack today, including the venerable Voting Rights Act of 1965. It’s our responsibility – today and in the future – to honor what millions have fought for by taking meaningful action towards the preservation of a fundamental freedom: access to the ballot box.”

Yesterday, Senator Ellis filed SB 990, omnibus legislation to improve and protect voting rights in Texas. The reforms laid out in SB 990 will eliminate unnecessary barriers to our constitutional right, while also securing the integrity of the vote. The bill does the following:

  • Criminalizes Deceptive Election Practices: Defines deceptive or disenfranchising actions, and sets related punishments in the Election Code. These actions include unlawfully restricting a person’s right to vote and removing the name of an eligible voter from the list of registered voters. This enshrines your right to vote freely and without undue influence from anyone, which before was not fully prevented.
  • Same-day Voter Registration: Allows qualified citizens to register to vote at a polling place on election day. This will allow otherwise eligible voters to register and vote on election day.
  • Youth Preregistration for Voting: Allows a person to preregister to vote on or after the person’s 16th birthday. Engaging young people to vote, who turn out in small numbers, can be made easier if they are registered when they get their first driver’s license.
  • “No Excuse” Absentee Voting: Allows all qualified voters to early vote by mail during the early voting period. This is commonly referred to as “No Excuse” Absentee Voting. This provision will give all people easier access to voting, regardless of their mobility.
  • Election Interpreters: Clarifies that a person can bring anyone of their choosing to serve as an interpreter while voting. If the local county has to provide an interpreter, they must be registered in that specific county or in an adjacent county. This would give flexibility to counties that don’t have enough interpreters and greater access to interpreters for non-English speakers.
  • Statewide Volunteer Deputy Registrar: Grants Deputy Registrars the ability to operate within any county of the state, regardless of where they were appointed. Current law limits Deputy Registrars to only registering voters in counties they are appointed, greatly limiting their ability to register voters at events that draw crowds from across the state.
  • Election Day as State Holiday: Establishes general and primary statewide elections as state holidays. It isn’t fair that working Texans have to either use their lunch break or wait until their shift is over to exercise their democratic rights, and this would fix that.
  • Election Day Law Enforcement: Expands enforceable action against poll workers to include any violation of the Election Code. A fair and open election process can be more easily ensured if poll workers abide by the rules.
  • Voter Registration Receipt: Requires that a voter registration confirmation receipt be given to applicants. This receipt must include the applicant’s and agent’s name, and the date of the registration application. A voter registration receipt would give proof to Texans who might not get their voter registration cards because of relocation or technical problems.

“I know that it will be an uphill battle to pass these policies, but I owe it to those who sacrificed so much in previous generations to fight for these common sense election reforms,” said Senator Ellis. “Our state, nation, and democracy are stronger when all of our voices – regardless of race, gender, or economic status – are included in the political dialogue. Eliminating unnecessary barriers to the vote ensures that public servants like myself are accountable to all Texans’ priorities: education, infrastructure investment, and an economy that works for all Texas families, not just a select few.”

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