Texas lawmakers claim voting restriction targeting Black voters was just a mistake


Republicans tried to cut back on Sunday voting hours, which would impact voter events organized by Black churches.

A voter suppression bill that failed in Texas over the weekend included a provision that would have barred Sunday voting before 1 p.m., severely limiting hours voters had to cast ballots.

If it had passed, the change could have impacted  "Souls to the Polls" voting events organized by Black churches to provide parishioners with transportation to the polls after church services.

The move earned blowback, even from the right-wing Wall Street Journal editorial board, which called the move "a political mistake."

And since the bill failed after state Senate Democrats denied the chamber a quorum when they walked out of the state Capitol right as the legislative session was expiring, Republicans are making up excuses about the attempt at limiting voting hours that just don't add up.

GOP state Rep. Travis Clardy claimed the starting time of the limited Sunday voting hours was merely a typo, and should have said 11 a.m. rather than 1 p.m., the Texas Tribune reported.

"That was not intended to be reduced," Clardy told the Tribune. "I think there was a — call it a mistake if you want to — what should have been 11 was actually printed up as 1."

But the bill's own author, GOP state Sen. Bryan Hughes, had previously defended the limited hours.

"Those election workers want to go to church, too," Hughes said, according to the Texas Tribune. "And so that's why it says 1 p.m. [and] no later than 9 p.m. You can make Sunday service and go after that."

Texas is the latest GOP state to unsuccessfully target Souls to the Polls events.

Georgia Republicans similarly tried to hamper Souls to the Polls events in their voter suppression bills, but stripped the provision from the final bill after blowback.

Black church leaders, for their part, have said Souls to the Polls events are important for turning out Black voters.

"We gather in our churches on Sunday morning, you have morning worship and then after the service you get on the church buses, church vans, get in cars and people go to vote," Bishop Reginald T. Jackson of the Sixth Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church told NPR when Georgia Republicans were looking to cut back on Sunday early voting.

Jackson added, "It's a very effective way the Black church has of getting out our vote."

The Texas bill is one of dozens of voter suppression bills making their way through GOP-controlled state legislatures. Since Jan. 1, "at least 14 states enacted 22 new laws that restrict access to the vote," according to analysis from the Brennan Center for Justice.

Republicans are pushing for voter suppression laws after Donald Trump falsely claimed he lost the 2020 election due to voter fraud.

Texas' bill failed this time, but GOP Gov. Greg Abbott said he will call a special session to try again to pass the bill.

"Ensuring the integrity of our elections and reforming a broken bail system remain emergencies in Texas, which is why these items, along with other priority items, will be added to the special session agenda," Abbott said in a statement.

Texas' voter suppression bill would make it harder to vote in a number of ways.

It would cut back on early voting hours by banning after-hours voting.

It would also ban both ballot drop boxes and drive-thru voting.

And it would also make it easier for politicians to overturn the results of an election by allowing courts to throw out ballots even if there was no proof fraud took place.

President Joe Biden slammed the bill as "wrong and un-American" in a statement on May 29.

"In the 21st century, we should be making it easier, not harder, for every eligible voter to vote."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.