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Texas state Rep. Matt Krause

Photo from Matt Krause's verified Twitter

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

A handful of Republican state lawmakers in Texas were caught on camera saying the voter suppression bill the GOP is trying to pass in the Lone Star State is intended to keep Republicans in power.

The footage was captured by Lauren Windsor, a progressive activist who posed as a supporter of Donald Trump as she spoke about the legislation to the lawmakers.

"We just want to make sure that Texas stays red and it doesn't become like Georgia," state Rep. Matt Krause told Windsor. President Joe Biden carried Georgia in 2020, becoming the first Democratic presidential nominee since 1992 to carry the state. Trump then tried to coerce Republican election officials in the state to "find" the exact number of votes he'd need to be declared the winner.

State Rep. Justin Holland made similar comments, responding to Windsor's prompt, "We had to get engaged in the fight to make sure that Democrats don't take over the state, and so we just want to make sure that y'all get the election bill passed." Holland responded, "That's what we're here for. Yep... they're gonna lose seats, they're not gonna gain seats next time. They're not gonna take over. They're gonna actually erode. And so we're going to make sure we come back with more Republicans next time."

Texas has seen Democratic candidates picking up seats in both Congress and the state Legislature over the last decade.

Publicly, GOP Gov. Greg Abbott has claimed that the bill, which limits early voting, makes it harder to vote by mail, and gives more authority to poll watchers, is about "election integrity."

"There's really one thing all of us can and should agree upon, and that is we must have trust and confidence in our elections," Abbott said in March. "One way to do that is to make sure that we reduce the potential for voter fraud in our elections."

However, Democratic state legislators, a number of whom have left the state to deny Republicans a quorum in the Legislature to vote on the bill, say the newly released video is more proof that the bill is about keeping Republicans in power.

"It was never about 'election integrity,'" Democratic state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, one of the Democratic lawmakers who left the state to keep the bill from coming to a vote, tweeted in response to the video. "It was about an unpopular party, in an increasingly diverse Texas, doing whatever it takes to hold onto power - even if it means sacrificing our democracy. Texans deserve better."

Democratic state Rep. Julie Johnson tweeted, "This bill we are fighting in #Texas is not about 'election integrity. It never really was. Texas Republicans have openly admitted they only want to retain power."

Abbott had called a special session of the Legislature to pass the bill, along with a list of other right-wing bills that would do everything from prohibiting transgender youth from playing on school sports teams of their gender to limiting access to abortion. That session ended on Friday without any bills being passed, and Abbott called a second special session that began on Saturday.

But the Democratic state lawmakers haven't returned to allow a quorum for voting and have filed a lawsuit against Republican leaders in Texas who are trying to compel them to come back, while also telling Congress to pass federal voting rights bills to combat efforts to restrict voting access such as the ones Texas Republicans are attempting to pass.

"This is not about election integrity, it's to keep anyone from voting that isn't a Republican," Democratic state Rep. Jarvis Johnson tweeted. "They just want to keep the state red. There is no shame."

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Eric Holder

The failure of major federal voting rights legislation in the Senate has left civil rights advocates saying they are determined to keep fighting—including by suing in battleground states. But the little bipartisan consensus that exists on election reform would, at best, lead to much narrower legislation that is unlikely to address state-level GOP efforts now targeting Democratic blocs.

“This is the loss of a battle, but it is not necessarily the loss of a war, and this war will go on,” Eric Holder, the former U.S. attorney general and Democrat, told MSNBC, saying that he and the Democratic Party will be suing in states where state constitutions protect voting rights. “This fight for voting rights and voter protection and for our democracy will continue.”

“The stakes are too important to give up now,” said Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which for years has operated an Election Day hotline to help people vote. “Our country cannot claim to be free while allowing states to legislate away that freedom at will.”

In recent weeks, as it became clear that the Senate was not going to change its rules to allow the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to pass with a simple majority, there have been efforts by some lawmakers, election policy experts, and civil rights advocates to identify what election reforms could pass the Senate.

“There are several areas… where I think there could be bipartisan consensus,” said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, in a briefing on January 20. “These areas are all around those guardrails of democracy. They are all about ensuring that however the voters speak that their voice is heard… and cannot be subverted by anyone in the post-election process.”

Becker cited updating the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which addressed the process where state-based slates of presidential electors are accepted by Congress. (In recent weeks, new evidence has surfaced showing that Donald Trump’s supporters tried to present Congress with forged certificates as part of an effort to disrupt ratifying the results on January 6, 2021.) Updating that law could also include clarifying which state officials have final authority in elections and setting out clear timetables for challenging election results in federal court after Election Day.

Five centrist Washington-based think tanks issued a report on January 20, Prioritizing Achievable Federal Election Reform, which suggested federal legislation could codify practices now used by nearly three-quarters of the states. Those include requiring voters to present ID, offering at least a week of early voting, allowing all voters to request a mailed-out ballot, and allowing states to start processing returned absentee ballots a week before Election Day.

But the report, which heavily drew on a task force of 29 state and local election officials from 20 states convened by Washington’s Bipartisan Policy Center, was notable in what it did not include, such as restoring the major enforcement section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was removed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. It did not mention the Electoral Count Act nor growing threats to election officials from Trump supporters.

“This won’t satisfy all supporters of the Freedom to Vote Act, but this is a plausible & serious package of reforms to make elections more accessible and secure that could attract bipartisan support,” tweeted Charles Stewart III, a political scientist and director of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab. “A good starting point.”

The reason the centrist recommendations won’t satisfy civil rights advocates is that many of the most troubling developments since the 2020 election would likely remain.

Targeting Battleground States

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Former president Donald Trump

By Rami Ayyub and Alexandra Ulmer

(Reuters) -The prosecutor for Georgia's biggest county on Thursday requested a special grand jury with subpoena power to aid her investigation into then-President Donald Trump's efforts to influence the U.S. state's 2020 election results.

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