Democrats hoping to stall a GOP-sponsored restrictive election bill ended a 38-day walkout on 19 August, allowing the legislature to reach a quorum, after a week earlier the Republican-led state Senate passed their version of the voting bill after a 15-hour filibuster by one of the Senate’s leading Democrats. Sen. Carol Alvardo.
The Republican-controlled Texas House of Representatives has advanced a new restrictive voting bill after months of protests by Democrats that were slammed by Gov. Gregg Abbott as inflicting “harm on the very Texans who elected them to serve”, reported The Texas Tribune.
The almost 50-page bill that contains a raft of changes to the state’s election code passed the Texas House on a 79-37 mostly party-line vote.
Among other things, it prohibits 24-hour and drive-through voting, blocks local election officials from sending out absentee ballot applications to voters who don’t request one, and states that partisan poll watchers appointed by campaigns and political parties cannot be denied “free movement” at voting sites.
Now the bill moves to the Texas senate, which has already passed a similar version, after which it will go to the desk of Texas governor Greg Abbott, who has vowed to swiftly approve it.
Dems Slam ‘Assault on Democracy’
The legislation comes as part of a nationwide effort by Republicans to push the voting system reform in the wake of claims by former President Donald Trump that the November 2020 presidential elections had been marred by “fraud” and “rigging” to favor his rival – Democrat Joe Biden.
In an attempt to fight the Texas bill Democrats in the state legislature first blocked the legislation by walking out of the state Capitol in May.
Abbott responded by vowing to veto Article 10 of the budget, which funds the legislative branch. The governor slammed the failure of the bill at the time as “deeply disappointing”.
In July, state lawmakers left their posts and headed for Washington to halt Republican restrictive voting bills built on what they branded as former President Donald Trump’s “fraud lies”. The move had prompted Republican House Speaker Dade Phelan to sign civil arrest warrants for the 52 House Democrats in a bid to compel their return.
Democrats and President Joe Biden have lambasted the legislation that restricts voting access as “un-American.”
“Texas legislators put forth a bill that joins Georgia and Florida in advancing a state law that attacks the sacred right to vote… 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,” said Biden in May.
Measures included in the bill, such as banning drive-through and 24-hour voting, according to an estimate by the Texas Civil Rights Project, were predominantly used by either Black, Hispanic or Asian voters in 2020.
The current advance of the bill comes after Democrats ended their 38-day walkout, giving the House the required two-thirds of members necessary for a quorum.
Last week, the Texas Senate passed its version of the election overhaul bill, SB1, after a 15-hour filibuster from Democratic state Sen. Carol Alvarado.
“Senate Bill 1 slowly, but surely, chips away at our democracy. It adds, rather than removes, barriers for Texas seniors, persons with disabilities, African Americans, Asian, and Latino voters from the political process. LBJ said the Voting Rights Act stripped away the last major shackle of the fierce ancient bond of slavery,” Alvarado testified.
‘Preventing Fraud, Increasing Voting Access’
Republicans argue the new bill is necessary to bring uniformity and boost faith in the US electoral system.
GOP Texas Sen. Bryan Hughes, who authored the bill, touted it as making it easier to vote and dismissed Democrats’ concerns.
“It cracks down on those vote harvesters, those paid political operatives who try to coerce voters, who try to mislead voters, who try to get in between the voter and her ballot,” said Hughes prior to the filibuster by Sen. Carol Alvarado, as reported by the Texas Tribune.
Andrew Murr, the bill’s sponsor, said the measure would prevent fraud, increase voting access, and help prevent ballot secrecy. Subsequently, in mid-August the Texas Senate recorded an 18-11, party-line vote in favor of passing SB 1. Since then, lack of quorum in the House prevented further advance on the legislation.
Now, Democratic Reps. Garnet Coleman, Ana Hernandez and Armando Walle have released a joint statement explaining their return to the floor.
They stated they were “proud of the heroic work” accomplished by breaking quorum but added that “now, we continue the fight on the House floor.”