EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — State lawmakers remain at odds over voting integrity as legislators grapple over GOP claims of voter fraud in Texas during the 2020 elections.
Senate Bill 7 would address what Republican lawmakers say are necessary restrictions to combat voter fraud.
KTSM 9 News spoke with State Rep. Art Fierro of El Paso, who sits on the Elections Committee, to gauge the merits of the bill.
“We spent hours and hours on the Elections Committee listening to people testify and come in and tell us about voter fraud and vote harvesting, and all these issues — but there’s no proof,” said Fierro.
S.B. 7 would impose new limits on the mail-in voting system; limit how, when and where people can vote; as well as expand measures to implement criminal penalties for voting offenses.
According to the Houston Chronicle, GOP lawmakers discovered 16 cases of false addresses on voter registration forms out of 11 million votes. Members of the Elections Committee who heard hours of testimony say did not make a compelling case.
Fierro said people testifying on behalf of the GOP cited unverified and unsubstantiated evidence.
“Can you share evidence — proof — with us?” Fierro said he asked. “And the person said, ‘Yeah, it’s on Youtube.”
State Rep. Briscoe Cain, R-Deer Park, is a proponent of S.B. 7 because he says it’s a voter enhancement measure that will standardize the ways Texans vote, but critics are concerned by the proposed restrictions.
“It’s a solution without a problem,” said Fierro.
Democratic lawmakers, including members of the El Paso delegation, argue that GOP measures to standardize the vote would effectively disenfranchise vulnerable voters.
An early version of S.B. 7 sought to require disabled voters to display proof of their status from entities like the Social Security Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs that was later cut. The Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities reported that the requirements would be unrealistic and expose counties and states to civil lawsuits.
The Texas Civil Rights Project is urging lawmakers to redirect their vigor to help voters, noting that Texas has no online voter registration, very few are permitted to vote by mail and that 750 polling centers were closed between 2019 through 2019 in areas that are predominantly communities of color.
“I believe it will serve the people of Texas well,” said Republican House Rep. for Texas’ 11th District Travis Clardy.
Texas is following states like Iowa, Georgia and Florida that are contesting voting policies, the arguments buttressed by former President Donald Trump’s erroneous claims that the election he lost was stolen.
Trump recently said that he expects to be reinstated as president by the end of the summer while continuing to fan claims of voter fraud on his blog. His blog page was permanently deleted on Wednesday. President Biden has called the claims “an assault on democracy.”
“The Secretary of State — a Republican Secretary of State — whose office came to testify before our committee, said that 2020 was one of the safest, most transparent elections in Texas history,” said Fierro. “S.B. 7 is not a result of the Trump ‘Big Lie’ about the election. … “The ‘Big Lie’ about the election is a reason to come up with a bill like S.B. 7. It’s a true voter suppression bill.”