Dems walk, stop Texas GOP's sweeping voting restrictions

Dems walk, stop Texas GOP's sweeping voting restrictions

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A restrictive voting bill in Texas that was on the verge of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk failed to pass Sunday night after Democrats walked out of the House chamber before a midnight deadline.

Abbott swiftly said he would call a special session to try passing a voting bill again but did not say when.

“We've said for so many years that we want more people to participate in our democracy. And it just seems that's not the case,” Democratic state Rep. Carl Sherman said.

The bill known as Senate Bill 7 would have imposed a raft of election changes that eliminate drive-thru voting, empower partisan poll watchers and impose new requirements in order to cast a ballot by mail in Texas, which already has some of toughest voting laws in the nation.

About two hours before a midnight deadline to pass the bill, Democrats began filing out of the chamber in greater and greater numbers, denying Republicans the quorum necessary to hold a final vote. The walkout handed Republicans a rare defeat in the Texas Capitol where they control every lever of power and wield overwhelming majorities in both the House and Senate.

“I am disappointed that some members decided to break quorum,” said Republican state Rep. Briscoe Cain, who carried the bill in the House. “We all know what that meant. I understand why they were dong it, but we all took an oath to Texans that we would be here to do our jobs.”

The move was reminiscent of 2003 when outnumbered Democrats twice broke quorum to stop Republican efforts to redraw voting maps. House Democrats first left the state en masse for Ardmore, Oklahoma only to return several days later. Senate Democrats delayed a special session that summer by going as a group to Albuquerque, New Mexico for several weeks.

Ultimately, neither effort worked as the Democrats eventually returned to the Capitol and Republicans passed the bill.

Under revisions during closed-door negotiations, Republicans added language that could make it easier for a judge to overturn an election and pushed back the start of Sunday voting, when many Black churchgoers head to the polls. The 67-page measure would also eliminate drive-thru voting and 24-hour polling centers, both of which Harris County, the state’s largest Democratic stronghold, introduced last year.

Texas is the last big battleground in the GOP’s nationwide efforts to tighten voting laws, driven by former President Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him. Georgia and Florida have also passed new voting restrictions, and President Joe Biden on Saturday unfavorably compared Texas’ bill to election changes in those states as “an assault on democracy.”

The vote in the Texas Senate came just a short time after a final version of the bill had been made public Saturday. Around midnight, Republicans wielded their majority to suspend rules that would normally prohibit taking a vote on a bill that had not been posted for 24 hours, which Democrats protested as a breach of protocol that denied them and the public time to review the language first.

Source: Read Full Article