Democrats march, stop radical Texas GOP voting restrictions
Texas Democrats succeeded in a dramatic and ultimate strike in the state House of Representatives Sunday night to block passage of one of the most restrictive voting bills in the United States, leaving Republicans without further ado choice than to abandon the midnight deadline and declare the legislative. session essentially ended.
The revolt is one of Democrats’ biggest protests to date against GOP nationwide efforts to impose stricter election laws, and they have used the spotlight to urge President Joe Biden to act on the law. to vote.
But victory may be fleeting: Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who had declared new election laws a priority in Texas, quickly announced he would order a special session to finish the job. He called the bill’s failure “deeply disappointing,” but did not say when it would bring lawmakers back to work.
“We have been saying for so many years that we want more people to participate in our democracy. And it looks like it isn’t, ”said Democratic state representative Carl Sherman.
One by one, Democrats left the House chamber until there was no longer the 100-member quorum needed to pass Senate Bill 7, which would have reduced voting hours, empowered poll observers and curtailed the means to vote in Texas, which already has some of the toughest election laws in the country.
They later gathered outside a black church, suppressing their anger over a last-minute change to the Texas bill that would have banned voting on Sunday before 1 p.m., when many black worshipers turned out to vote. Democrats said they did not show up for the House vote with the intention of breaking the quorum, but instead got fed up after Republicans repeatedly refused to answer their questions while rushing to pass the bill.
It was a staggering turnaround from just 24 hours earlier, when the bill looked almost guaranteed to reach Abbott’s office. The Texas Senate had signed before sunrise earlier Sunday after Republicans, who hold an 18- to 13-year-old majority in the chamber, used a bare procedural gesture to suspend the rules and take action in the midst of the night.
But as the day wore on in the House, the GOP’s odds faltered. State Representative Chris Turner, the Democratic House leader, said he texted his caucus members at 10:35 p.m. telling them to leave the chamber. But at that time, the exodus was already well underway.
“We knew today, with the eyes of the nation watching the actions in Austin, that we had to send a message, and that message is very, very clear: Mr. President, we need a national response to the right to federal vote, ”Democratic State Representative Trey Martinez Fischer said.
Republicans have shown restraint in criticizing Democrats for the move.
“I am disappointed that some members have decided to break the quorum,” said Republican Representative Briscoe Cain, who passed the bill in the House. “We all know what that meant. I understand why they were doing it, but we all took an oath to the Texans that we would be there to do our jobs.
Texas is the latest major battleground in the Republicans’ campaign to tighten election laws, prompted by former President Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him. Georgia and Florida also passed new voting restrictions, and Biden on Saturday compared the Texas bill unfavorably to electoral changes in those states as “an attack on democracy.”
Under revisions during closed-door negotiations, Republicans added wording to the 67-page measure that could have made it easier for an election to be overturned by a judge. The bill would also have eliminated drive-thru voting and 24-hour voting centers, both introduced by Harris County last year. Houston is in Harris County, the state’s largest Democratic stronghold.
Large companies have joined in the backlash, including Texas-based American Airlines and Dell, warning that the efforts could damage democracy and the economic climate. But Republicans have ignored their objections and, in some cases, ripped off business leaders for speaking out. By the time the Texas bill was about to pass over Memorial Day weekend, corporate opposition had faded.
Since Trump’s defeat, at least 14 states have passed more restrictive voting laws, according to the New York-based Brennan Center for Justice. He counted nearly 400 bills introduced this year across the country that would restrict voting.
It wasn’t the first time that Texas Democrats – who haven’t been in power in the state Capitol for decades – have been able to block contentious legislation despite being outnumbered.
They broke the quorum twice in 2003 to stop Republican efforts to redraw the electoral maps, at one point leaving the state for Oklahoma. A decade later, former State Senator Wendy Davis ran out of time on a sweeping anti-abortion bill with a filibuster that lasted more than 11 hours, propelling her into a failed race for governor .
But in each case, the Republicans ultimately prevailed.
“We may have won the war tonight, but the battle is not over,” said Democratic state representative Nicole Collier. “We will continue to fight and denounce these measures which try to silence our voices.”
Associated Press author Jim Vertuno contributed to this report.