2021 Legislative & Annual Report: Voting

Throughout 2021, disability advocates and self-advocates across the country have been railing against laws and proposals that would restrict voting for Americans with disabilities. As we learned on a Raise Your Voice call this summer from our partners at Secure Democracy, Texas has become ground zero in the fight to protect hard-won voting rights.

In 2021, this fight began with HB 6 (Cain) / SB 7 (Hughes). This so-called election integrity bill would have created significant barriers to voters with disabilities (as well as other low-income voters and voters of color). From requiring proof of disability for mail-in ballots, to giving untrained poll watchers the go-ahead to video record anyone they believed was violating the law, to limits on curbside voting, the passage of this bill would have set the civil rights of voters with disabilities back decades.

A man in a sweater looks up at the camera from his laptop at a cafeteria table.From our team, Executive Director Dennis Borel and Deputy Executive Director Chase Bearden (left, in the Capitol Grill at the beginning of the first special session) took every opportunity to work with HB 6 and SB 7’s authors and supporters to mitigate its effects on people with disabilities, as well as coordinated with our partners and the voting rights community to push back against voter suppression efforts in general. Still, CTD and many of our partners, notably, Disability Rights Texas and Secure Democracy, opposed HB 6, SB 7, and all versions of omnibus elections bills filed in both the House and the Senate.

Our mitigation efforts did pay off with the final voting bill that passed during the second special session. The following provisions do not appear in SB 1:

In addition to preventing these provisions from passing into law, we had some other wins, with help from many of our partners and our members making their voices heard:

One voting issue we’re returning to in 2023: CTD and our partners at the American Council of the Blind of Texas have long argued that voters with visual and certain motor impairments should have access to electronic mail-in ballots. Technology has made it possible for voters who use screen readers or assistive devices to cast a private, independent mail-in ballot. But, by largely ignoring HB 3874 (Bucy), the state refuses to make it legal.

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