Texas Democrats abandon Home flooring, blocking passage of voting invoice earlier than last deadline | Area

The major overhaul of Texas elections and voter access was about to go into effect from the start of the session. It had the support of the Republican leaders in both houses of the legislature. It had support from the governor.

Democrats who opposed the law and denounced it as a mere attempt to suppress voters were simply outnumbered.

But on Sunday evening, when lawmakers had an hour to finally approve the bill, the Democrats staged a strike to prevent a vote on the bill before a fatal deadline.

“Leave the chamber discreetly. Don’t go to the gallery. Get out of the building, ”said Chris Turner, chairman of the House Democratic Committee, in a text message to fellow Democrats received from The Texas Tribune.

Senate Bill 7, a Republican bill, is a huge bill that would change almost the entire voting process. It would create new restrictions on early voting times, tighten restrictions on voting by email, and restrict local voting options such as drive-through voting.

The Democrats had argued that the bill would make it harder for people of color to vote in Texas. Republicans called the bill an “electoral integrity measure” – necessary to protect the Texas elections from fraudulent votes, although there is virtually no evidence of widespread fraud.

The debate over Senate Bill No. 7 had dragged on for hours on Sunday as the Texas home neared a midnight hiatus to give final approval to the legislation before it could go to Governor Greg Abbott’s desk, to sign the law.

Between their anti-law speeches, the Democrats seemed to tumble off the floor all night, with some of their desks looking empty. In an earlier vote on a resolution allowing short-term additions to the bill, only 35 out of 67 Democrats appeared to have voted. At around 10:30 p.m., the remaining Democrats were seen leaving the chamber.

Their absence resulted in the House of Representatives not having a quorum – which requires the presence of two-thirds of the 150 House MPs – to hold a vote.

At 11:15 p.m., about 30 Democrats could be seen arriving at a Baptist church about two miles from the East Austin Capitol.

The place for the Democratic reunion appeared to be a nod to a last-minute amendment to the massive bill that put a new limit on early Sunday election times and limited voting from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. the last two days the Democrats had mocked the addition – which had come in behind closed doors during negotiations – raised concerns that change would hamper “souls at the polls” efforts to attract voters, especially black voters, after services.

The Democrats stood outside the church and said the strike did not come until after it appeared that the Democrats’ plan to run the clock in the House of Representatives was not going to work because the Republicans had the votes to set a procedural step to use the violence to break the debate and force a final vote on the law.

“We saw this coming,” said State Representative Nicole Collier, a Fort Worth Democrat and chair of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus. “We used all of the tools in our toolbox to combat this bill. And tonight we pulled the last one out. “

About an hour before the midnight deadline, House Speaker Dade Phelan confirmed the lost quorum and adjourned until 10 a.m. Monday morning. Midnight marked the closing time for the House and Senate to sign the final versions of laws negotiated during the conference committees.

After the adjournment, Phelan targeted the Democrats and found that their actions killed other laws.

“Today, on the penultimate day of the session, some members chose to disrupt the legislative process by leaving the legislative chamber before our work was done,” Phelan said in a statement. “In doing so, these members killed a number of strong, momentous bills with broad bipartisan support.”

Eagle Pass State Representative Eddie Morales was among a handful of Democrats who appear to have stayed in the Chamber. Morales said earlier in the day the House Democratic leadership had asked him to make a list of questions to ask during the Chamber’s debate on SB 7. He stayed behind, he said, because he was sticking to the original plan.

“I had this series of questions and that’s why I wanted to stand back and fight it,” said Morales. “I wanted to vote against and I would be there to actually attack the law.”

SB 7 was a step away from the governor’s desk. It was negotiated behind closed doors last week after the House and Senate passed and drew significantly different versions of the bill from each chamber’s versions of the bill. The bill also came back with a number of additional changes to the voting rules that were not part of previous debates on the bill, including new identification requirements for voting by mail, restrictions on early Sunday voting times, and a higher threshold for qualifications due to disability by postal voting vote.

But while the Democrats were able to defeat the legislation on Sunday, Abbott quickly made it clear that he expects lawmakers to finish the work during a special session.

“Electoral integrity and bail reform were top priorities for this legislative period. You still have to pass. They will be added to the agenda of the special sessions, ”he said in a post on Twitter. “Legislators are expected to have the details worked out by the time they get to the special session at the Capitol.”

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who chairs the Senate, reiterated the call for a special session to pass SB 7 and other Republican priorities that died in the House of Representatives.

“The Texas Senate passed all of these priority laws months ago, and we’re going to do it again. The TxHouse let the people of Texas down tonight. No excuse, ”Patrick tweeted.

In recent months, SB 7 has been at the forefront of wider Republican efforts to further restrict the right to vote after the state recorded its highest turnout in decades in 2020. With Republicans in full control of the state government, the chances of making it to the governor’s desk are always high.

Still, the bill sparked heated debates between Republicans and Democrats – the latter in the House and Senate particularly focused on the short-term amendments to the bill. The final version of the bill went well beyond what the House and Senate had originally passed in a sweeping 67-page bill with many amendments that was only presented to the entire House and Senate on Saturday.

Parts of the bill were specifically drafted for voting initiatives that Harris County used in the last election – such as a day of 24-hour early voting, drive-through voting, and an effort to proactively distribute nominations by mail – that were heavily used by colored voters. But under SB 7, these options are banned across the state.

It would put a new window for the 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. early voting window, making it a crime in the state prison for local officials to send postal votes to voters who did not request them. It would also be a crime to pass these requests on to third parties like the League of Women Voters, who cast the vote. It also extends the freedoms of partisan election observers and allows them “freedom of movement” within a polling station, except when a voter fills out a ballot.

It wasn’t immediately clear when Abbott would call on lawmakers for a special session, although lawmakers are expected to return this fall to redraw the state’s political maps. Patrick had previously requested an additional special meeting in June.

Reese Oxner and Patrick Svitek reported on this report.

This story was first published on https://www.texastribune.org by The Texas Tribune. This story has been edited lengthways. The Texas Tribune is a non-partisan, nonprofit media organization that educates and interacts with Texans on public order, politics, government and statewide issues.

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