Hours after staging a walkout that blocked passage of a controversial voting bill, Texas Democrats on Monday admitted the effort was only a temporary solution and Republicans would likely soon pass the legislation anyway, even as they encouraged continued opposition.
It’s likely not the end,” state Rep. Chris Turner, chair of the House Democratic Caucus, acknowledged to CNN on Monday, noting Gov. Greg Abbott (R) held the power to “decide what’s going to happen next.”
Turner was one of the orchestrators of the walkout, telling lawmakers in a text message to “leave the chamber discreetly,” according to the Texas Tribune.
Brianna Brown, deputy director of the Texas Organizing Project, a progressive group, told CNN that Democrats’ last minute maneuver gave them “more time on the clock” to continue organizing efforts.
Brown argued that many had assumed the election legislation would “sail through” the Texas House and Senate, and that didn’t happen: “We’re going to continue to organize,” she said.
Democrats staged the walkout after it became clear that Republicans had the votes to end debate on the controversial election bill, effectively killing an effort to run out the clock on the last day of the formal legislative session. At around 10:30 P.M. local time, Democrats exited the floor, leaving the House without the 100 members required for a quorum. The bill in question, Senate Bill 7, would make voting-by-mail more challenging, eliminate drive-thru voting and 24-hour polling centers, and make it easier for a judge to overturn an election. It’s one of a host of election bills brought by Republicans in state legislatures across the country aimed at restricting voting in the aftermath of the 2020 election.
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After Democrats blocked passage of the bill, Abbott promised to call a special voting session to pass the election bill, but did not indicate when that would happen. “Election Integrity & Bail Reform were emergency items for this legislative session. They STILL must pass. They will be added to the special session agenda,” Abbott said on Twitter. “Legislators will be expected to have worked out the details when they arrive at the Capitol for the special session.” Under Texas House rules, two-thirds of the House must be present for business to be conducted. Democrats could technically attempt a similar avoidance maneuver during a special session, though such efforts are difficult to coordinate. The Republican-led House could order the sergeant-at-arms to arrest lawmakers who were absent, as they did during a similar walkout staged by Democrats in 2003. Abbott can call for a special session as early as June 1, and lawmakers were already expected to reconvene in the fall to redraw the state’s political maps.
“The Texas Senate passed all these priority bills months ago and we will again. The TxHouse failed the people of Texas tonight. No excuse,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick tweeted early Monday morning.
66%. That’s the percentage of registered voters who cast a ballot in 2020, the highest turnout the state has seen in nearly 30 years. Democrats had hoped the high turnout would flip the state after decades of GOP dominance, but former President Donald Trump ended up carrying the state by more than 5 percentage points.