Texas Democratic lawmakers abruptly blocked a restrictive voting bill in a dramatic move Sunday night, flocking out of the chamber before midnight to send the legislation to the state governor.
The dramatic move was at least a short-term victory over the GOP-backed Senate Bill 7, which Democrats and voting rights advocates have likened to Jim Crow laws that largely prohibited black Americans from voting. in the 20th century. The measure would include new restrictions on postal voting, empower political party observers, and ban drive-thru voting and 24-hour polling stations, both of which were used successfully during the COVID-19 pandemic, between other provisions.
The bill would also make it easier to cancel an election.
Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said that despite the blocking decision, the bill remained an element of ‘inescapable urgency’ in his mind and would be added to the agenda of a special session alongside a bail reform bill later this year.
“It is deeply disappointing and concerning to Texans that neither is reaching my office,” Abbott said in a statement Monday morning. “Ensuring the integrity of our elections and reforming a broken bail system remain urgent matters in Texas. ”
He didn’t give a date for the session, but the New York Times notes it could start as early as June 1.
The bill, if ultimately passed, is expected to become one of the most restrictive election laws in the country and is part of Republicans’ continued efforts to rewrite the country’s laws following the defeat of former President Donald Trump in the 2020 election. Trump and his allies have continued to broadcast unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud in their attempt to make voting much more difficult, unveiling laws that would largely penalize low-income Americans and communities of color.
The Democratic walkout was hosted by State Representative Chris Turner (R), who wrote to members of his caucus to quietly leave the chamber around 10:35 p.m. local time.
“Don’t go to the gallery,” Turner wrote, “leave the building.”
The mass exodus caused the chamber to miss the quorum of 100 required to continue by 14 votes.
“It became clear that the Republicans were going to interrupt the debate to pass their suppression legislation,” Turner told The Times shortly after midnight. “At this point, we had no choice but to take extraordinary measures to protect our voters and their right to vote. “
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