Texas Republicans To Make A Second Try To Tighten Voting Laws The U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision upholding a restrictive Arizona voting law has activists elsewhere concerned. In Texas, state lawmakers are set to unveil a new voting bill.

Texas Lawmakers Return For A Second Shot At Tighter Voting Laws

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LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Next week, Texas lawmakers are set to consider a bill that could make voting more difficult in the state. It comes days after the Supreme Court gave a green light to an Arizona law imposing restrictions on how ballots may be cast. As Ashley Lopez of member station KUT reports, voting rights activists worry that the court's decision means there's now little to keep Texas from making it harder to cast a ballot.

ASHLEY LOPEZ, BYLINE: Dionna La'Fay is an organizer in Texas for Black Voters Matters. Her group works to mobilize voters of color on issues related to voting rights, among other things. La'Fay says this year has been exhausting. In Texas, a GOP-backed voting bill nearly passed at the end of May, but a last minute walkout by Democrats blocked it. But now La'Fay and others say they are preparing for round two.

DIONNA LA'FAY: You kind of learn to just go with the flow and find a way to hold on to, like, seeds of hope - right? - because we don't have control.

LOPEZ: Texas Governor Greg Abbott has said more needs to be done in the state to make elections more secure without offering any evidence of voter fraud. This is why organizers in the state say they are concerned about the Supreme Court ruling. Charlie Bonner is with MOVE Texas, a group that mobilizes young voters. He says the ruling sent a message that the courts are not going to side with voting rights advocates who want voting to be more accessible.

CHARLIE BONNER: And so it's on us to pick up the fight and push forward pro-voter policies that are going to make sure that we can protect our fundamental rights and expand access to all eligible voters.

LOPEZ: Voting groups in Texas have long turned to the courts when their other efforts fail. But ever since an earlier 2013 Supreme Court ruling, it's been more difficult in federal courts. Mimi Marziani with the Texas Civil Rights Project says that doesn't mean voting rights groups can or should bypass the courts.

MIMI MARZIANI: The protections of the Voting Rights Act have been whittled down in the last decade. At the same time, there are other federal laws, some of them that have been disregarded, I think.

LOPEZ: For example, Marziani says her group has had some success challenging state practices through the National Voter Registration Act. She says her group also recently sued people who were engaged in political violence in Texas during the 2020 election using the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871. But she says what is really needed are more federal protections, and that is up to Congress.

MARZIANI: I don't know what else they're waiting to drop from the sky (laughter) to feel like it's the time to act on federal voting legislation. This should be seen as that sign. The laws on the books are getting weaker.

LOPEZ: For advocates like Dionna La'Fay from Black Voters Matter, new federal protections would take some pressure off. She says groups like hers are fighting back Republican efforts across the country that are making it harder for people to participate in elections.

LA'FAY: If we had federal legislation, there wouldn't be as much power to do these things in the individual states.

LOPEZ: Action in Congress has its own hurdles. Republicans in the U.S. Senate recently blocked consideration of an expansive voting rights bill. That's why Charlie Bonner with MOVE Texas says after this recent Supreme Court ruling, his group plans to double down on organizing voters in Texas.

BONNER: This is a call to all of us to work harder, to fight back. And then it's on all of us to turn out in the next election in numbers so high that no amount of voter suppression could confuse the outcome.

LOPEZ: After their first attempt at a voting law was unexpectedly defeated in May, Texas Republicans are set to unveil their new proposals soon. For NPR News, I'm Ashley Lopez in Austin.

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