SUNDAY FEATURE: Arizona, Texas, both weighing new voting laws now, have their own history of racial discrimination at the ballot

The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee

By Tom Kuebel | KTAR

The Arizona Legislature was debating one of several Republican proposals to overhaul voting when GOP Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita said she’d had enough.

“I don’t like to be characterized as supporting discriminatory laws!” she told Democrats, who say the legislation will hurt Latino and Native American voters.

But Democratic Sen. Martin Quezada, a Latino from Phoenix, didn’t back down. “This will hurt my community. This will hurt my neighborhood.”

“And,” he continued, “we’re going to continue bringing this up.”

Indeed, Democrats are escalating their charges that the Republican push for tighter state voting laws is designed to make it hard for people of color to vote. As the fight moves from the Deep South to the Southwest, that’s put increased focus on the impact the proposals would have on Latino and Native American voters — groups with distinct histories of fighting for voting rights.

 “Arizona, Texas and several states in the Southwest have a long, sordid history of voter suppression, not only against African Americans but Latinos,” said Domingo Garcia, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens. Fighting the new voting bills, he added, “is our No. 1 priority.”

But Republican lawmakers, after seeing how Democrats successfully labeled GOP-backed legislation in Georgia as racist, are fighting back. They blasted Democrats for what they say are lies about the plans. Texas Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick last week accused opponents of “borderline race baiting.”

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