Texans’ Voting Rights Narrowly Survive the 80th Legislative Session


Contact: Joy Authur, 512-476-7329 Stacey Gates at People For the American Way

Email: media@pfaw.org

Phone Number: 202-467-4999

Governor Rick Perry Vetoed Important Legislation Which Would Have Encouraged Civic Participation

The Texas legislature adjourned its difficult 2007 legislative session with Texans’ voting rights still mostly intact. When the session concluded Tuesday, none of the threatened legislation that would narrow voting rights for Texans had passed—such as burdensome proposals to require additional ID and proof of citizenship at the polls. Unfortunately, Gov. Rick Perry vetoed a bill which would have helped former felons who have paid their debt to society become voters and better citizens.

Senate Democrats banded together to block House Bill 218, an egregious voter identification bill which would have made it more difficult for Texans to exercise their right to vote. Against doctors’ orders to stay in bed because his body was showing signs of rejecting a liver transplant he received in January, Sen. Mario Gallegos rested outside of the Senate chambers in a hospital bed on standby if the bill came up.

“What we’ve seen this session is an all-out shameful effort by some members of the legislature to chip away at the right to vote, and courageous efforts to hold back that tide,” said Joy Authur of People For the American Way’s Texas Office. “First the voter identification bill, which was blocked by Senate Democrats, and then Governor Perry vetoed a good public policy initiative to help formerly incarcerated individuals become voters and better citizens.”

“There’s much work to be done here, and it will be an uphill battle, but we are encouraged by champions for democracy such as Senator Mario Gallegos. We’ll continue our work with organizations and members of the legislature for effective reforms that will ensure that all eligible voters are able to participate in the electoral process,” Authur said.

On a sour note, Governor Perry vetoed legislation passed overwhelmingly by the Republican-controlled House and Senate, that would have required the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to provide written notification to discharged prisoners regarding their voting eligibility, and to provide those persons with a voter registration application.

“It’s embarrassing that the governor would support attempts to turn back the clock on our voting rights, and veto legislation that would expand the electorate,” Authur said.