DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Civil rights and community organizations and prominent Texas Democrats are increasing their campaign against two controversial Texas election bills -- Senate Bill 7 and House Bill 6.
During a rally in Dallas Thursday against the legislation, Jane Hamilton with the Barbara Jordan Leadership Institute said, "Texas has a very long history of voter discrimination against voters of color."
During a Facebook Live conversation Thursday night, the Texas Republican Party Chair, retired Lt. Col. Allen West, championed the measures. "Election integrity is the number one legislative priority for the Republican Party of Texas."
Senate Bill 7 would standardize voting hours in the state and expand the rights of poll watchers.
House Bill 6 would require those assisting voters at polling places to register their names and take an oath.
It would also increase criminal penalties against vote harvesting.
Hamilton said, "Criminalizing voting is not new. The proposed elections changes are straight up voter suppression. And to be clear, this is not like Jim Crow. This is Jim Crow."
In response, West said, "To try to say that if you believe in election integrity, you're a white supremacist, you're a racist, you're taking people back to Jim Crow, let me tell you something, you're looking at a guy who was born in 1961 in a blacks-only hospital in Atlanta, Georgia."
Opponents warn the bills could be bad for Texas business.
A study by the Perryman Group, commissioned by the Texas Civil Rights Project, found that if the two bills become law, they could cost Texas $14.7 billion in annual gross product and 73,249 jobs by 2025.
House Speaker Dade Phelan's spokesman called the study "completely divorced from reality."
The bills' opponents are demanding companies publicly take their side after Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick warned businesses that doing so could alienate half of their customers.
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