FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 05/31/2021
Representative Lopez Joins Colleagues in House Floor Walkout
Austin, TX – On Sunday, State Representative Ray Lopez joined his colleagues in an organized walkout, leaving the capitol building in protest of Senate Bill 7, a controversial piece of legislation that would make sweeping changes to Texas election laws. This prevented the chamber from achieving quorum, which is a two-thirds majority of House members needed to be present to vote. SB 7, if passed, would have introduced some of the most restrictive voting measures in the country. Representative Lopez opposes this bill because he believes that it is an unnecessary piece of legislation that would create burdensome obstacles for Texas voters.
SB 7 would have banned drive-thru voting, as well as polling locations set up within temporary structures, in most cases. Ballot drop boxes would also be prohibited. 24-hour voting locations would be banned, and in-person voting could only take place between the hours of 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. The hours for early voting on Sundays would be reduced to 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. These drastic reductions to voting hours and alternative voting methods would have negatively impacted low-income individuals and families, many of whom already struggle to achieve an appropriate work-life balance. Furthermore, the new restrictions on Sunday voting hours disproportionately affect black and religious voters, as historically black churches often take their members to the polls following morning worship services.
This bill would have required people who vote by mail to include their driver’s license number, the number on their state ID, or the last four digits of their Social Security number, with omissions or incorrect numbers leading to ballots being rejected. Additionally, those with disabilities would be subject to narrower eligibility requirements when opting to vote by mail. SB 7 would have made it a felony for election officials to send a mail ballot to someone who did not request one. Applications for voting registration would not be allowed to include the voter’s name and address already filled in. All of these restrictions are deeply harmful to people with disabilities and the elderly, many of whom rely upon voting by mail.
Under SB 7, partisan poll watchers would have been given increased access to observe election activities. These individuals would be granted free movement and be allowed to sit or stand close enough to “see and hear election officials”. This provision is concerning to Representative Lopez because he is worried about voter intimidation. Many individuals, such as those who do not speak English fluently and people with intellectual disabilities, need assistance from election officials, and poll watchers who wrongfully suspect foul play could interfere with this process.
Another one of this bill’s provisions is that people who drive at least three non-family members to the polls must fill out a form with their name and address on it and indicate whether they are providing assistance to a voter with a disability. Representative Lopez believes that this is an undue restriction to voters’ freedom of assembly. It could also get in the way of access to polling facilities for those who lack access to adequate transportation options.
SB 7 would have also made it easier for election results to be overturned. The threshold for proving that fraudulent voting occurred would be reduced, and judges would be allowed to declare an election void if the number of fraudulent ballots is greater than the margin of victory. Representative Lopez is concerned that this gives too much power to judges to interfere with the election process, leaving it vulnerable to partisan abuse.
Representative Lopez believes that this legislation will fail to make our elections more secure, accomplishing nothing except for making it more difficult for low-income individuals and people of color to carry out the civic duty of voting. As long as he is in office, Representative Lopez will continue to do everything in his power to stop harmful legislation such as this.