In a fiery address Tuesday morning, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) railed against the left and the media while scolding American Airlines, Major League Baseball, and other corporations for meddling in politics. Patrick then defended SB7, the Senate's recently passed, and controversial, Election and Ballot Security bill saying it was about voter security, not voter suppression.
Opponents said Senate Bill 7 limits polling hours, eliminates drive-through voting, and includes some changes to the mail-in ballot process. Patrick said the bill is needed because "Americans no longer trust the system and a country where voters do not trust the system is a country in peril."
"People in America have lost faith in their elections, in the outcome, and we have to resolve that issue in this country and in this state and that's why Senate Bill 7 is needed," Patrick said.
Patrick said he was, "tired of lies and the nest of liars who continue to repeat them. "Nothing has changed in the election code regarding early voting. Nothing."
Lone Star Politics
Covering politics throughout the state of Texas.
"Let me repeat this for the media and the Democrats so they'll stop lying about it, we have not changed any dates on early voting. It still starts two weeks before the election -- 12 days of early voting."
Patrick added SB7 makes mail-in voting easier for seniors or the disabled by making signature verification now one signature for comparison for a longer period of time instead of comparing two signatures within the last six years.
The lieutenant governor said they were standardizing polling places, not reducing them, saying the number of polling places would depend on the number of eligible voters in the area.
The lieutenant governor took offense to criticism of the bill saying it calls into question his integrity and that of the 18 Republican members who voted for the bill. He specifically mentioned a call from a representative of American Airlines whom Patrick said called his office to say they'd be opposing SB7 but hadn't read the bill.
"So you're calling us to tell us it isn't personal against the lieutenant governor or the governor or the 18 members who voted for the bill, but you haven't read the bill and you're calling us out for suppressing the vote? Well, let me tell you what Mr. American Airlines, I take it personally. You're questioning my integrity and the integrity of the governor and the integrity of the 18 Republicans who voted for this. When you suggest that we're trying to suppress the vote you're in essence between the lines calling us racist and that will not stand! That will not stand! You have a right to your opinion, but at least read the bill."
Patrick said the state has done a lot to lure businesses to the state through incentives and policy and that corporations like the airline or MLB, which recently pulled the All-Star game out of Georgia over a new voting law there, should reconsider weighing in on politics.
"You've meddled in a lot of issues lately … stay out of things you don't know anything about and if you want to get involved then you're taking that risk. You have a right to your opinion, but read the damn bill before you give one. And don't insult us, 'We don't want you to take this personally.' You know why they said that? They might come down the street the next session and have a bill they want us to pass for them. Good luck!" Patrick said. "We'll treat them fairly like we always will, but as Gov. Abbott said on FOX earlier this morning, we have brought a lot of businesses to Texas. They come here because we're the best state to do business in but if they think they're going to attack the legislature on issues they have no knowledge about and come to us with their hand out, well that's just not going to be the way we do business. Don't, on one hand, say "Thank you Texas" while on the other hand slap us in the face. We're not going to put up with it anymore."
Here is what Patrick says SB7 does:
- Requires a paper backup for every ballot.
- Consistent rules statewide to count ballots on time so counts don't take days or weeks.
- Will send ballots to only voters who currently live at the address.
- Disabled voters who vote curbside will have the same protections of privacy as people who vote in person.
- All communications with election machine vendors will be subject to open record requests.
- No voting machine can be connected to the internet to curtail hacking.
- No vote totals can change once the votes are cast; says the disks inside voting machines should not be able to be rewritten.
- Counties over 100,000 will be required to live stream their counting process.
- Will standardize polling locations based on the number of registered voters in the area.
"Senate Bill 7 is not voter suppression, it's voter security. If Beto and Castro and Turner and Hidalgo and all these other folks out there protesting with their fists in the air that this is voter suppression, they're lying to you. Let them point it out in the bill," Patrick said.
"This is what happens when the media doesn't give the facts. This is what happens when you let people lie," Patrick said. "Anything I said here today, hold me to it. Everything I said today is true. Every fact I gave you is correct. If I'm off a number and I misspoke, I'll correct it. But I'm confident of everything I told you today is correct."
Critics were quick to respond after Patrick's address Tuesday.
Texas Democratic Caucus Chair Rep. Chris Turner (D-101 Grand Prairie), applauded companies taking a stand.
“Our democracy here is at stake. We need everybody, business included, to weigh in and say we want to protect the right to vote and make it easier for people to vote, not harder for people to vote,” said Turner.
The Texas House has its own bill about election security, HB6, which made its way out of committee and is up for debate in front of the full House.
“It is disappointing that we’re wasting time. You know we had a power grid failure, we had George Floyd murdered, you know, outside of the state of Texas but he lived in Texas, and so there are some great measures that we could be focusing on, making sure that we’re doing good things for the people of Texas, instead of wasting time on these red herrings that are caused to distract” said State Rep. Nicole Collier (D-Fort Worth).
But like the Senate, the Republicans control the House, so some Republicans would have to join Democrats to stop the bills from eventually becoming law.
Democrat Mike Collier, who plans to challenge Patrick for the lieutenant governor's office in 2022, said Patrick was dishonest in his characterization about the bill while chasing sound bites. Collier's statement is below:
“Today, we saw Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick once again use his office to spew lies, deceit, and misinformation about the Texas Senate’s latest attempt to pick and choose their voters and disenfranchise those who don’t vote for them—Senate Bill 7. Make no mistake: SB 7 and HB 6 are bad for business. From Dell to American Airlines to Southwest Airlines to Microsoft, business after business has come out against voter suppression. This is why Texas needs a proven business leader, not a glib radio shock jock at the helm of this great state. During the conference, Patrick spent more time bashing the CEO of American Airlines and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo than he spent explaining how the bill would make voting more fair, secure, and accessible, as he and other Texas Republicans claim it will. This is typical Patrick behavior — always chasing sound bites over sound policy. I lived through Jim Crow. The fact of the matter is clear: SB7 represents a return to Jim Crow-era policies that target the right to vote of disadvantaged, minority voters. Shorter voting hours, fewer ballot return options, continued restrictions on vote-by-mail ballots, and more all prey on any voter who cannot vote in the traditional in-person system. The most revealing part of the conference came when Patrick claimed that he ‘represent[s] 4 million voters’ in reference to his 2018 re-election. Texas’ population is now up to about 29 million. Clearly, in his mind, Patrick uses his office and his role in the Texas Senate only for those people who support him. As Lieutenant Governor, I will ensure first and foremost, that I represent all Texans, whether they vote for me or not, and that no one’s right to vote is ever under assault in the state of Texas again. If you’re a politician that fears Texas voters, you have no business holding office in Texas. As the Lone Star State, we should be leading the country in expanding voting access, not restricting it. It’s time that Dan Patrick’s tenure in Texas government comes to an end, and his voter suppression tactics with it.”
Common Cause Texas, a nonpartisan organization focusing on voting rights and other issues, said the lieutenant's statement was "quite dangerous" but didn't specifically say what it was about the bill they disagreed with.
"Dan Patrick has decided to loudly dismiss the legitimate concerns brought up by legal and policy experts, grassroots leaders and community members, many who themselves are Black, Latinx, Asian, or Texans with disabilities, to gaslight the people of Texas about voter suppression. We do not simply “dislike” Senate Bill 7 – this bill is anti-democratic, anti-voter, and once again, demonstrates how far current leadership is willing to go to protect their own partisan interests. We have seen, again and again, what happens when elected officials get in front of the public and choose to spew misinformation. We cannot ignore that this same tactic sparked the flames that led to the white supremacist insurrection at the US Capitol just months ago. Common Cause Texas will continue working tirelessly with our partners across Texas to defeat Senate Bill 7 – and all threats to Lone Star State's democracy."
Election security has been a top priority for Patrick since the Senate began its session earlier this year.
"Maintaining the integrity of our elections is vital to preserving public trust so our democracy can flourish, and that’s why I have made election security a top priority again this legislative session. SB 7 will strengthen the public’s faith in our electoral process and ensure that every Texan knows that when they cast their ballot, their vote is secure. I congratulate Sen. Hughes and the Texas Senate for passing these comprehensive reforms,” said Patrick in a statement last week.
On the Senate floor, State Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) said there was a lack of input from civil rights groups into the bill.
“We have suggested to you different instances in this particular bill smacks of suppression. You still have not heard us. I hope one day that you hear us not only hear us but listen to us,” said West.
Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa blasted the legislation, and promised action, saying “Texas Republicans are delusional if they expect anyone to accept this legislation without a fight. Democrats, allies, and voting rights advocates are speaking as one, and our message is clear: when Republicans attempt to silence Texans, we only get louder. We will fight tooth and nail to stop this bill from being signed into law, and if it is, we will see Republicans in court. An attack on our right to vote is an attack on our communities and our future. We will not be silenced.”
NBC 5's Julie Fine contributed to this report.