Good morning. My name is Maggie Stern and I am here today testifying on behalf of myself and the Children’s Defense Fund of Texas in opposition to SB 1.
Children’s Defense Fund is a nonprofit child advocacy organization with the mission to ensure every child a Healthy, Fair, Safe, and Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood. A vital part of our mission means ensuring that families and young people have the ability to make decisions for their communities for people and policies who represent them and their needs. This anti-democratic piece of legislation seeks to strip that power from Texans and must be opposed.
Of the many dangerous and anti-voter provisions in SB 1, I want to speak today about one in particular that will harm the young people we work with, and that is the emboldening of partisan poll watchers at the expense of voters.
Imagine an 18 year old voting for the first time. Having registered many of these first-time voters, I can tell you they are often excited, curious, and also sometimes intimidated to vote for the first time, particularly living in a state that does not provide an adequate civics education to most students. For a first-time voter, their first experience at the polling place can determine whether they will become lifelong voters – or one of the millions of eligible Texans who never cast their ballots.
We all want the next generation to grow up caring about their communities and exercising their freedom to vote. But imagine an 18 year old – already nervous about voting for the first time – being trailed by an adult through the polling place, questioned based on the poll watcher’s own untrained judgment. As other witnesses have testified, poll watchers in Texas have historically – including in the 2020 election – deliberately gone into Black and brown neighborhoods to harass voters of color – and young voters are the most racially diverse generation.
These deliberate barriers to voting harm communities, families, and children. Instead of SB 1, this body should be spending its time investing in online voter registration, high school voter registration, and comprehensive civic education to meet today’s young Texans with the education & resources that they need to make decisions in their communities and build a state that works for us all. I urge you to oppose SB 1.