SB 1 and HB 3 Disenfranchise Texas Voters With Disabilities

The Arc of Texas Manager of Public Policy & Advocacy Alex Cogan provided oral testimony to the Senate State Affairs Committee on July 10, 2021, in opposition of Senate Bill 1. You can also find copies of the printed testimony provided to the committees for Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 3, which also deals with elections.

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Thanks for the opportunity to provide input on SB 1. My name is Alex Cogan, and I am representing The Arc of Texas, which is a organization that promotes and protects and advocates for the human rights and self-determination of Texans with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We also ensure that they can vote privately and independently with proper access, support, and accommodations.

There are multiple provisions in SB 1 that specifically interfere with the ability of Texans with disabilities to participate in the democratic process, a direct counter to the election integrity and security bill authors claim are the purpose of the legislation. Access to the electoral process for people with disabilities is something every Texan should seek, because public confidence in our democratic system requires that all eligible voters be able to participate and have their vote counted. Unfortunately, the added requirements and enhanced penalties found in SB 1, as you can see below [in printed testimony provided to committee], fundamentally discourage the participation of those with disabilities to vote with accommodations and support.

For example, the section that require people who assist voters with a disability to complete a form affirming they “did not encourage […] the voter into choosing” the assistant directly undermines this person’s judgment and legitimacy to exercise their most basic right. This tells people with disabilities that they are not strong or smart enough to make decisions on their own. We know this isn’t true.

These changes in oath requirements complicate the voting process and lead to unnecessary confusion and the disenfranchisement of Texans with disabilities.

The provisions you see above [in printed testimony provided to the committee] do not consider the lived experiences of people with disabilities and the reasons voting accommodations exist in the first place. We urge the committee to recognize that all Texans have the right to vote as privately and independently as possible. People with disabilities already face barriers and discrimination on a daily basis, from public school inclusion to securing employment. We must not add voting to that list. As American citizens and Texans, voting is our fundamental right and must be maintained, but SB 1 falls short. At best, it creates significant barriers to the voting process and at worst, it is discriminatory against Texans with disabilities. Thank you for your time.