Texas State Representative Senfronia Thompson remembers when her grandparents had to save pennies so they could pay a poll tax in order to vote. Congress passed the Voting Rights Act on August 6, 1965, which outlawed Jim Crow restrictions like literacy tests and poll taxes designed to keep Black Americans from voting. But 56 years after President Lyndon Johnson signed that landmark legislation, Representative Thompson has found herself in the middle of another heated battle over voting rights.
This year alone, after Donald Trump falsely claimed he lost the 2020 election due to voter fraud, Republicans in 18 states have passed at least 30 new laws that restrict voting, claiming they are acting in the name of “election security.” That includes a law in Florida aimed at reducing early voting and drop box locations, and one in Georgia that would allow the legislature to take over local election boards and bans passing out food and water to people waiting to vote.
And then there’s Texas. Earlier this summer, Texas Governor Greg Abbott called special legislative session to pass a slew of Republican priorities, including voting restrictions. GOP lawmakers had the votes, but a group of Democrats pulled the only card they had left and fled the state to stall the vote. Rep Senfronia Thompson was one of them.
Trymaine Lee speaks with Rep. Thompson, who is the longest-serving Black lawmaker in state history, about why she’s risking arrest to keep up the fight for voters back home in Texas and to push for better voter protections nationwide.