Texas Legislature Second Special Session: SB 1 Infringes on Voting Rights of Texans With Disabilities

The Arc of Texas Member Courtney P. of the Dallas area provided written testimony to the Senate State Affairs Committee on August 9, 2021, in opposition of Senate Bill 1 (SB 1).

She wanted to provide her testimony virtually because of the high rate of COVID-19 cases in Austin and the risk of contracting a severe illness. Despite a formal request to provide virtual testimony, which was supported by a formal letter signed by Texas Senate Democrats, she was not granted the opportunity.

Although Courtney still has not had the opportunity to share her testimony in her own words in her own way, Texas Sen. Carol Alvarado (District 6) read Courtney’s testimony aloud on the Senate floor during her filibuster of SB 1 on the evening of August 11.

Read Courtney’s testimony below, which has been edited slightly to protect her privacy.

Hello and thank you for the opportunity to testify on SB 1. My name is Courtney. I’m a resident of the [Dallas area] and am here to bring forth some common concerns of people with disabilities in respect to SB1.

Coming from a family who has served this amazing country in many ways, including participating in the armed forces, being police officers, and working for the government, it goes without saying that we believe in the democratic promise of this country, and that includes our civic duty to exercise our right to vote.

I live with paralysis due to a progressive health condition. This means I have many evolving support needs that affect the way that I can vote.

To vote in person, I need assistance. Finding a person who’s willing to transport me, a wheelchair accessible vehicle, and someone to open doors to the voting location are just a few examples of this. If the table that the voting apparatus is located on is too high or too low, I am not able to push my wheelchair close enough to be able to use pen and paper nor reach an electronic device. In situations where the height isn’t optimal, but I am able to manage, my writing quality, therefore my signature, is extremely varied and may not reflect how it appears in other contexts. Under this bill, my vote could be discarded if my authentic signature is believed to be fraudulent.

Now, more than ever, it can be hard to find available assistance in this nurse and caregiver shortage. With the passage of SB1, it will be even harder to find people willing to help me exercise my right to vote if they are risking a felony because a poll worker misjudges my supporter’s assistance as misconduct.

This past presidential election I utilized drive thru voting for the first time, which this bill also affects in some vicinities. I had the assistance of someone to drive, to help me take my identification out of my wallet, as well as to give me the stylus and hold the tablet device on which I voted.

As someone who loves this country–the daughter of a veteran–I plead with you all to consider the tangible effects of the bill as it stands today and thank you all for your time. God bless.