The Arc of Texas Provides Testimony Against House Bill on Elections

The Arc of Texas provided testimony to the Texas House Elections Committee opposing House Bill 6 by Representative Briscoe Cain, which would create barriers to voting for Texans with disabilities. The Arc of Texas Director of Public Policy & Advocacy Ginger Mayeaux submitted the following testimony on March 26, 2021.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide input on HB 6. I am the Director of Public Policy and Advocacy for The Arc of Texas. The Arc of Texas promotes, protects, and advocates for the human rights and self-determination of Texans with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). This includes ensuring Texans with disabilities can vote privately and independently with proper access, accommodations, and support.

We respect the intention of HB6 and support election integrity and security. However, we do not support the provisions that impact the ability of Texans with disabilities to participate in the democratic process. Access to the electoral process for people with disabilities matters to all Texans, because public confidence in our system of democracy is based on knowing that all eligible voters are able to participate and have their vote count.
We oppose adding unnecessary and excessive requirements for people who assist voters with disabilities (Section 4.01).

The new form that requires additional intrusive information and increasing penalties for unlawfully assisting a voter will cause a chilling effect and complicate the voting process. Both provisions will lead to unnecessary confusion, or even voters with disabilities losing their support person and going without the help they need to cast a ballot as they choose. People such as poll workers, who may not be familiar with support for individuals with IDD, may misunderstand cuing, prompting, and other ways people comprehend and remember information as abuse or exploitation of the voter. However, people with disabilities have proven they are proud of their right to choose who and what to vote for, just like everyone else.

In addition, requiring supporters to provide voter ID violates the Voting Rights Act, and diminishes people with disabilities’ right to choose their specific own support. People have the right to choose someone who understands their support needs and allows them to vote as they see fit, not as their supporter may vote. A supporter’s ability to do this, is not based on them having a specific form of voter ID. Self-advocacy groups continuously teach self-advocacy skills, including voting rights, and how to make informed choices. However, there is a misconception that people with disabilities are likely to be exploited and need protection. This provision will reduce the amount of valid voting—not prevent presumptive fraud.

The above requirements does not consider the lived experience of people with disabilities and the reasons accommodations were put in place. We urge the committee to work with Texans with disabilities to amend the bill and ensure all Texans have the support they need to vote. Voting is a fundamental civil right as American citizens and as Texans.

I look forward to working with Representative Cain and others moving forward.