DALLAS — State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer thinks members of the U.S. Senate should work as long as it takes to pass two pieces of legislation, even if it means working through the holiday.
The Democrat from San Antonio recently sent a letter to Senate leadership asking them to stay in session until the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act are signed into law.
More than 200 other state lawmakers from 41 different states and Guam also signed the letter.
“This is a very fluid conversation. And very recent, last couple of days, we’ve all realized that Build Back Better is now sort of moving to the sideline as Senator Manchin and the White House negotiate the finer points. And so you now see an opportunity to maybe put voting rights back in front,” Martinez Fischer said on Inside Texas Politics.
The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act would strengthen voting rights and overhaul the nation’s elections systems. The U.S. House has already passed both measures.
Democrats argue they’re necessary to protect voters after Republicans have change election laws in many states, which they say make it harder for some people to vote, particularly minorities. In his letter, Martinez Fischer says 19 states passed 33 laws this year alone that restrict access to the ballot.
After releasing the letter, Martinez Fischer says he and a few colleagues traveled to Washington, D.C. to once again lobby national lawmakers in person, visiting with some Senators and other voting rights advocacy groups.
“What I’m beginning to realize is things move very, very slow in Washington,” said Martinez Fischer. “I know the inside game in Austin. I legislate behind the scenes. And I know sometimes it takes a while. But in Washington, they have this manana mentality where everything’s going to get done tomorrow.”
Martinez Fischer says many of the folks he meets with express concern with what’s happening in Texas after he explains how high the hurdles are to vote.
And the Democrat says when his group recently visited West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a fellow Democrat, they drove home the point that voting in Texas is much different than voting in West Virginia.
“In West Virginia, if you’re a shift worker, if you’re a nurse or a firefighter, you get to vote by mail. We don’t get to do that in Texas. In West Virginia, if you’re afraid to go stand in line at the polls because of COVID, you get to vote by mail. You can’t do that in Texas. In West Virginia, if you have a DWI and you’re sitting in the county jail, you get to vote by mail. You can’t do that in Texas,” said Martinez Fischer.
Martinez Fischer also filed one of the first lawsuits challenging the state’s new redistricting maps. His lawsuit specifically targets the lines drawn for Congressional District 35, which stretches from Austin to San Antonio, and argues the maps violate the Voting Rights Act and discriminate against Latino voters.
For Martinez Fischer, it’s all part of an overall battle to protect voting rights. And he says he’s not alone.
“Texas Democrats have been very bold on this issue. We find ourselves in the center of the conversation across the country.”
Martinez Fischer’s letter to Senate leadership: 2021.12.14-State-Lawmaker-Letter-to-Senate-Leadership_Delay-the-Recess.pdf (dfadcoalition.org)
Copy of Martinez Fischer’s lawsuit:  TMF v Abbott - Original Complaint.pdf - Google Drive
Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer: Texas House of Representatives : Representative Martinez Fischer, Trey