Texas Democrats leave House floor, effectively blocking passage of restrictive voting bill for now

Their transfer effectively killed Senate Bill 7 for this yr’s legislative session. But it might quickly be revived: Republican Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted Sunday night time that he’s including “election integrity” to an inventory of matters lawmakers will handle in a particular session he plans to name.

“Ensuring the integrity of our elections … will be added to the special session agenda,” he reiterated in a press release Monday. “I expect legislators to have worked out their differences prior to arriving back at the Capitol so that they can hit the ground running to pass legislation related to these emergency items and other priority legislation. During the special session, we will continue to advance policies that put the people of Texas first.”

Democrats left the chamber at about 10:45 p.m., CT, leaving Republican Speaker Dade Phelan to concede that the House didn’t have the 100 members crucial for a quorum and to adjourn the House for the night time.

Republicans in Texas had sought to hitch Florida, Georgia and different GOP-controlled states which have seized on former President Donald Trump’s lies in regards to the 2020 election and adopted new restrictions that may make it tougher for some of their residents to vote.

It’s not but clear when Abbott will name the particular session. It’s additionally not clear whether or not Republicans will enter the particular session set on approving SB 7 because it’s at the moment drafted or will search to make additional adjustments.

A supply tells CNN that Rep. Chris Turner, the House Democratic Caucus chair, despatched a textual content message to all of its members at 10:35 p.m., native time, that learn, “Take your key and leave the chamber discretely. Do not go to the gallery. Leave the building.”

Democrats’ resolution to leave the House flooring and block the bill’s passage got here after hours of contentious debate — together with Republicans refusing to take questions from Democrats about what the bill would do.

“We used all the tools in our toolbox to fight this bill, and tonight we pulled out that last one,” mentioned Rep. Nicole Collier, who chairs the Texas Legislative Black Caucus, throughout a midnight information convention at a church in East Austin. “We are no longer going to stand and let them continue to push measures that disenfranchise our voters.”

Collier in contrast SB 7 to ballot taxes and different legal guidelines which have traditionally made it tougher for Black and Latino individuals to vote.

“There’s no widespread voter fraud. And so for them to mislead all of Texas into believing that there’s an issue — we’re going to call them out for that,” Collier mentioned. “We may have won the war tonight, but the battle is not over.”

Texas House Republicans mentioned Democrats “chose to vacate their Constitutional responsibility and leave millions of Texans without resolutions on key issues,” in a tweet posted shortly after the House adjourned.

Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer lambasted Abbott for failing to name particular classes prior to now over Hurricane Harvey, mass shootings within the state, or the coronavirus pandemic, and mentioned the governor’s willingness to name one to impose new voting restrictions was purely about his personal political ambitions.

“We will not participate in our own demise,” Martinez Fischer mentioned. “You may have the votes on the floor, but we’re all equal in federal court.”

Texas State Rep. Joe Moody, a Democrat, defended the transfer by his colleagues to CNN’s John Berman on Monday and mentioned though Abbott has the power to name a particular session, “at a certain point you have to draw a line and we’ve got to decide what’s right and what’s wrong.”

“What’s wrong is to take away the access to the ballot box, and all of us on the Democratic side of the aisle that chose this path knew the consequences, and we were willing to risk them,” Moody mentioned on “New Day.”

Immediately after Democrats broke the House’s quorum Sunday night time, progressive teams celebrated the victory — though it could solely be short-term.

“One of the ugliest anti-voter bills in the country died today in the 2021 Texas Legislature. Democratic lawmakers broke quorum in a courageous move that shows just how hard Texans are willing to fight to protect their constitutional right to vote,” mentioned Sarah Labowitz, coverage and advocacy director of the ACLU of Texas.

What was within the bill?

The measure would have made mail-in voting tougher by requiring voters to provide extra info, prohibiting native elections officers from sending out absentee poll purposes to anybody who has not requested one or from working with get-out-the-vote teams which might be encouraging Texans to vote by mail.

It would have prohibited the after-hours and drive-through choices that voting rights advocates mentioned helped Black and Latino voters within the Houston space forged their ballots within the 2020 election.

It would have required all weekday early voting to happen between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. — prohibiting Houston from once more providing a 24-hour early voting alternative. And it will have barred early voting on Sundays earlier than 1 p.m., which effectively limits the “souls to the polls” after-church get-out-the-vote efforts which might be in style amongst Black church buildings.

SB 7 would even have made it simpler to overturn an election, permitting courts to throw out outcomes if sufficient ballots had been forged illegally that it might have made a distinction — reasonably than proving that fraud truly altered the result of a race.

The bill would even have imposed $1,000-a-day fines on native election officers who don’t observe prescribed procedures to replace their voter rolls, and legal penalties on election employees who impede poll-watchers. Those partisan poll-watchers would have seen their energy expanded, permitting them to be “near enough to see and hear” election exercise. The bill did, nevertheless, mandate that the ballot watchers take an oath promising to not harass or disrupt voters or the voting course of.

Democrats’ uncommon transfer evoked reminiscences of 2003, when the party’s Texas House members fled to Oklahoma to dam the legislature from adopting new congressional district strains — stopping state troopers from dragging them again into the Capitol to vote.

President Joe Biden on Saturday afternoon condemned the Texas measure, calling it “wrong and un-American” and saying it’s “part of an assault on democracy that we’ve seen far too often this year — and often disproportionately targeting Black and Brown Americans.”

This story has been up to date with a press release Monday from Gov. Greg Abbott.

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