Why the only black freshman in Texas refuses to give up the fight for voting rights By Nicquel Terry Ellis , CNN Update 2126 GMT (0526 HKT) July 22, 2021 For Texas State Representative Jasmine Crockett, being in public office was not a goal she had ever set for herself. Neither became a civil rights lawyer. But after being the victim of racist hate mail while attending Rhodes College and watching black people face inequalities in the criminal justice system, both careers sbecame a vocation to which she had to respond. Today, Crockett is making waves as the first outspoken and passionate black Democrat in the Texas state legislature. In her first year in the State House of Representatives, Crockett proposed more than 60 bills - many of which were drafted herself - that addressed criminal justice reform, relaxed laws on criminal justice drugs and widened access to voting. Although neither of them succeeded, she did not give up. Crockett said she came into office determined to defend vulnerable Texans and refused to be silenced by more experienced colleagues who did not always agree with her. My intention was to make sure my circumion absolutely knew their voices were being heard, said Crockett. I never intended to sit on my hands and let lies unchecked. ReadMore Crockett has become one of the frontline faces in a fight to protect voting rights in the Lone Star State. And she fought Republicans alongside other women of color in the Texas legislature. State Representatives Gina Hinojosa, Jessica Gonzalez, Rhetta Andrews Bowers and Senfronia Thompson - who is the oldest woman and Black American in the State House - are among the Texas House Democrats who leaked state last week to block republicans from adoption d ' a new restrictive voting law . Lawmakers are in Washington DC, mobilizing to have Congress pass federal legislation that would violate the bill. Crockett's leadership among Texas House Democratsin Washington is consistent with his ongoing advocacy for voters of color in Texas. Since her election last July, she has introduced bills that would create online voter inion and same-day voter inion, increase the ballot box, codify drive-thru voting, and allow voters who will have 18 years old in time for the general election to be able to vote. at primary. Crockett said she doesn't plan to leave DC until August 7, when the Special Legislative Session ends and the bill dies. She said staying in Washington was worth it and that she was not concerned about Texas Governor Greg Abbott, threatens to arrest him and the other lawmakers upon their return to Texas. If we can't fight for us, then I don't know who is going to fight for us ,Crockett said. Crockett said ensuring voters have equal access to ballots is key to increasing voter turnout, noting that when more people vote, Democrats often win because we tend to fight for a wider range of votes. people. A fight for criminal justice reform As a civil rights lawyer who previously worked as a public defender, Crockett became familiar with the criminal justice system of the State and knew what she wanted to change as a Texas lawmaker. She filed bills that she said would minimize police contact with blacks and browns and save them from unreasonable use of force. For example, Crockett proposed a law that would allow people facing non-violent offenses to receive citations instead of jail time. Other bills would reducere how long people are detained before being formally charged and easing penalties and restrictions around cannabis use. Jasmine Crockett, right, speaks alongside civil rights lawyer Lee Merritt listening during a press conference in Dallas in 2017. Crockett encountered opposition from Democrats and Republicans with these bills a nd haven't seen anything go through yet. It's just frustrating and disappointing, she said. Nonetheless, Crockett is receiving praise and praise from some colleagues in the Legislature of State. Texas State Representative Ron Reynolds has been a mentor to Crockett since his election. Reynolds said he trained him on the culture of the Legislature. State and encouraged her to speak out on issues she cared about. Reynolds said it's rare for a first-year lawmaker to speak up and introduce so many bills, but he acCrockett was told not to let the backlash from his colleagues stop him. A lot of people will try to silence someone like her and I didn't think it was best for the fiery personality that she is, he said. a great speaker, she does due diligence and prepares herself. From the courtroom to the State Capitol Crockett decided during her university studies that practicing law - instead of her original career goal of anesthesiology - would enable her to help those facing inequity and racism. She recalls needing a lawyer when someone left hate mail racist in his mailbox on campus and when his black friends had their cars locked on campus. I wanted to be that shero who could help people at a very confusing and difficult time, said Crockett. I went ahead andI took that coat. Crockett spent over a decade working as a lawyer, including a stint as a defender in Bowie County, Texas, and then opened his own private practice focused on Civil Rights Law in Dallas in 2015. As a public defender, she realized that most of the people who needed the help of public defenders were black. color faced harsher sentences than whites, she said. Crockett studied the code of criminal procedure and focused on helping people of color get reduced obligations and jail time shorter. In 2010, she ran for the Bowie County District Attorney in hopes of being able to make more changes. She was defeated in the race. I constantly walked in them. Courtrooms where disparities are stark, Crockett said. For me, I was coeven if we were to change the laws regarding how we are controlled. We need to change the laws regarding what is considered criminal activity. In his private practice, Crockett represented a long list of clients who were victims of injustice, including hundreds of protesters arrested last summer during the Mouvement Black Lives Matter . She said she announced her candidacy for State House in 2019 after seeing her Dallas district suffer from dire poverty and high incarceration rates. Honestly, I Did it I didn't feel like we had the firepower in Austin, said Crockett. And I said this is what I must do and now is. A 'modern civil r ights movement ' For Crockett and others Democrats, getting to Washington was an urgent needNoted that the Republicans in Texas were on the verge of adopting a radical overhaul of the elections that would make postal voting more difficult; ban drive-thru voting centers and 24-hour voting; make poll observers accountable, making it easier for courts to overturn election results; Black churches effectively banned souls at the polls take out the vote and more. Crockett said federal legislation is the only way to save millions of Texas voters from being denied the right to vote. The restrictions could also impact next year's mid-terms in which Abbott is running for re-election. Crockett said the battle for voting rights looks like a modern day civil rights movement. Political observers say Crockett's persistence is emblematic of other women of color in politics. Kelly Pittman, Research Director at Center for American Women and Politics said research shows that women, especially women of color, run for office to push through policies or because they are fighting for a cause. Many, like Crockett, also defend the persity of communities. They are there for ego success and they are looking for solutions, Pittman said. Women of color are more productive with sponsorship or cosponsorship legislation. Brotherly support Despite an uphill battle to pass a law, Crockett has become a leading voice for Black and Brown Texans and garnered support from other black leaders as well as voting activists who joined her in Washington. Crockett said that one of his most puissants was his sisterhood Delta Sigma Theta. The sorority sisters, she said, came to the Texas Capitol to support her in the hearings on the vote on the legislation and worked on her campaign. Her sorority sister Crystal Ward was among the campaign volunteers who knocked on doors and made phone calls. It makes me proud to know that a sorority friend and sister is doing a good job, getting herself into trouble, Ward said. She sticks with everything she believes in, she's really for people.