Ron Reynolds is a Democratic state representative from Texas. The views expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion at CNN.
(CNN)I came to Washington, DC with over 60 Democratic colleagues on Monday with the intent of protecting the freedoms of Texas voters. We wanted to prevent the Legislature from achieving a quorum and voting into law a series of ruthless restrictions on voting for the state. So we left for our nation’s capital.
In response, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has vowed to have us arrested as soon as we come back. But it’s time that our United States Congress hears from the front lines of the anti-voter movement — a movement driven by extremists seeking to essentially reinstitute the days of Jim Crow by attacking measures disproportionately used by voters of color — that is sweeping our nation.Just like racism and division, House Bill 3 and Senate Bill 1 — both seeking to suppress voters — have no place in Texas. Ron ReynoldsThis special 30-day legislative session Abbott called to vote on the bills has been poisoned from the beginning. It began with his defunding of the legislative branch late last month as punishment for Democrats walking off of the state House floor in May to prevent Republicans from passing Senate Bill 7 during the spring regular legislative session — causing the bill to expire. SB7 would have restricted voting on Sundays and allowed courts to use fraud claims to overturn election results. Gov. Abbott’s move is an abuse of power — an act of legislative coercion and a threat to democracy. After last-minute hearings last Saturday that lasted nearly 24 hours in the Texas House and Senate, we heard from hundreds across the state, and the vast majority cried out and asked us to stop HB 3 and SB1, which among other things, bans local election official from sending unsolicited applications to request mail-in ballots and bans drive-through voting and extended hours during early voting.Read MoreTexas Republicans voted down every amendment that would have lessened the damage that would be wrought by these voting restriction bills. On a straight party vote in both chambers, Republicans moved to advance the bills.The record voter turnout during the 2020 election that delivered a victory to President Joe Biden has renewed GOP efforts to ensure that only certain people have access to the ballot box. Dozens of states with Republican legislatures are using the disingenuous concerns of “voter fraud” and “ballot security” to consider restricting the voting methods that helped millions of voters cast ballots during the pandemic.As polarization has grown in our country, there have been more dedicated attempts to make this an anti-democratic and un-American nation. This coordinated culture war started by far-right extremists is an attempt to stop voters from casting their ballots freely, safely and equally. It’s time to heal from the days of segregation and poll taxes.We must unite and move forward from this country’s wrongdoings, we must talk openly and honestly with one another. Together, we can ensure that everyone is free to cast their ballot and dismantle the pains of racism gripping our nation.As we have seen, people of color have been pivotal in some recent elections. Republicans are determined to stop that by implementing measures — like new ID requirements, restricting vote-by-mail and banning extended hours during early voting — that disproportionately hinder voters of color. The struggle for the soul of this democracy and the free, fair and nondiscriminatory access to the ballot is worth fighting for.In a democracy, the vote and the ability of eligible persons to exercise the right to vote is central to a legitimate form of government and the democratic process. We should all be pushing for comprehensive legislation to modernize our voter registration system, ensure equal access to the ballot box for all Americans, prohibit voter intimidation and other deceptive practices that keep people from exercising their constitutional right to vote. Get our free weekly newsletter
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We were forced to flee Texas and have come to DC to ask our Congress to act now and pass both the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. These bills would strengthen the freedom to vote for all Americans — across race and region — by making sure that attempts to create barriers to voting that discriminate against voters based on our color, background or zip code are prohibited, so we all have an equal say in our future. As our right to vote is under siege in Texas and across this country, I urge every one to speak up, show up and stand up. Our Texas Democratic legislators will not stand down before political bullies that are trying to dismantle our democracy, take away our voices and void our civil right to vote. We will continue this fight for all Texans and all Americans, because it is the right thing to do.