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Texas already has some of the most restrictive voting laws in the nation, yet the Texas legislature is currently considering two bills that would further suppress the right to vote in our state. With Senate Bill 7 and House Bill 6, legislators are hoping to prevent the popular measures that led to the record turnout we saw throughout our state in 2020, such as drive-in voting and extended early voting hours. These bills also limit access to mail-in ballots preventing election officials from preemptively sending out vote-by-mail applications and would require Texans with disabilities to obtain a doctor's note when applying to vote-by-mail. If passed, these provisions will have a harmful effect on millions of people of color, students, people with disabilities, and working class voters who are routinely denied the opportunity to have their voices heard in our democracy. The people of Texas must demand that our elected officials vote "No" on SB 7 and HB 6 and should instead work to ensure that voting is accessible to everyone.

It is easy to get swept up in all the rhetoric surrounding the issues that affect us in this polarized environment, but the right to vote transcends partisan politics. No matter your political affiliation, you or someone you know probably wanted to vote one day, but were unable to find the time to take off work. Or maybe they showed up to vote on Election Day and the lines were too long, so they turned around and went home. When I was a student at the University of Texas at Austin, there was only one polling location on-campus for the entire student body and the line would stretch all the way around the whole building. I had conversations with students who considered voting, but did not have the free time during the day to wait for hours in those long lines to vote. The situation is even worse for students like my brother at Stephen F. Austin, who before 2020 did not have an accessible, on-campus polling locations for early voting. Unfortunately, our legislators implement laws that specifically work to suppress the votes and voices of students, which affects all young people in our state, regardless of their regional location or party affiliation. It is why student IDs are not listed as one of the acceptable forms of photo ID to bring to the polls. These scenarios occur because our elected officials have implemented unnecessary laws that make voting more difficult than it should be for many Texans, and I cannot think of anything more harmful to our democracy than making our already stringent voting laws even more restrictive.

HB 6 is currently being heard in the House and our representative Travis Clardy is part of the Elections Committee that decides if it moves forward. I am urging Representative Clardy to use his position on the committee to vote "No" on HB 6 and to reject the blatant anti-democratic voting laws.

Dustin Haltom

MOVE Texas Civic Leadership Program Fellow

Jacksonville, Texas

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