Government

Texas Democrats Take Action Against Voting Rights Bill


TL;DR (4-minute read)

  • Democratic State Representatives from Texas have fled to Washington D.C. in order to prevent a sweeping voting bill from being passed. The passage of the bill would place voter ID requirements for mail-in ballots, remove 24-hour drive-through voting booths, and significantly increase the authority partisan poll workers are allotted. They argue these changes will suppress voter turnout of minorities.
  • The Texas House Representatives plan to unwaveringly remain in D.C. until the end of the special session on August sixth.
  • Texas House Republicans argue the bill will provide greater election security, as many still falsely believe and propagate that the presidential election was ‘unfairly stolen’ from them due to a lack of election security. They have kept their faith high, as they know the election bill will inevitably be passed by the legislature when the Democrats return. Texas’s Governor, Greg Abbott, has stated he will make sure the lawmakers will be jailed when they return.
  • This action certainly caught the attention of people throughout the U.S., but this battle isn’t anything new. The fight for voter rights has taken the country by storm, and until an agreement is reached in the US Senate, arguments will persist within individual states. 
  • The House Democrats are still in DC as of today.

Key Questions to Consider:

  1. Why did the Democrats flee Texas?
  2. What was the Republican response to this action? 
  3. What other effects does this have on the government? 

1: Why did Texas Democrats flee their own state?

On Monday night, July 12th, Texas Democrats fled their state and landed in Washington in a final effort to block a Republican-backed voter suppression bill. Their hope was to draw national attention to their cause. This effort was heavily coordinated by Trey Martinez Fischer, a Texas State Representative. Fischer has said, “we want the nation to join us and we want the U.S. Senate to hear us and act.” 

51 out of 67 total State House Democrats left the state —enough to block the GOP from reaching quorum—which is necessary to pass their new bill. If there are not enough Representatives present at the meeting, it is against parliamentary procedure to continue with a vote on the piece of legislation. The group of lawmakers has vowed that they will stay in Washington until the special session ends on August sixth, delaying the passing of the bill as long as possible. 

This new voter restriction overhaul bill contains provisions that would ban 24 hour drive-through voting sites, require more voter ID laws for mail-in voting, and expand the authority and autonomy of partisan poll watchers. This bill is by far the most extensive voter restriction proposal seen in any state at this time. President Biden has voiced his opinion on this bill calling it both “un-American” and “un-democratic.” 

The Texas Democrats are taking their stand against this sweeping bill, and while their departure from their state is not going to alter the Republican’s perceptions, it will put the passage of their legislation off track. 

Edward Jones waiting on Saturday to testify in hearings on the voting bill in the Capitol in Austin, Texas (Tamir Kalifa/The New York Times).

2: What was the Republican response to this action? 

Although the Democrats have left the state, the Republican lawmakers that remain in Texas believe this act is just postponing the inexorable. There aren’t any long-term options that could hold off the Republican-dominated legislature; parliamentary procedures and amendments can procrastinate the process, but not terminate it. Representative Briscoe Cain (TX-R) said: “it’s just delaying the inevitable,” and the action is just “political theater.” “We will eventually get it done, this special or another,” Cain said.  The Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott (R) has responded to the movement by emphasizing the imminence of the bill, claiming he will call “special session after special session after special session” until an election bill is passed. 

Voting rights activists during a protest in Austin in early May against the Texas voting legislation ((Mikala Compton/Reuters).

3: What other effects does this action have? 

While the primary goal of this action was to inhibit the GOP from obtaining a quorum, necessary for the body to operate, this movement simultaneously raises pressure on the U.S. Senate to address the issue of voting rights themselves. Since President Biden took office back in January, there has been a Democratic push to pass anti-voter suppression laws to enhance our country’s democracy by ensuring each citizen has an equal opportunity to access their right to vote. 

Despite the national attention that the fleeing legislators drew, the consequences of this movement are fairly insubstantial. Ultimately, in states with Republican-controlled legislatures, there is not an effective way to stop the voter-restriction laws from being passed. While Texas’s new statute was the most severe of all the restrictive voting bills — calling for voter ID requirements for mail-in ballots, removing 24-hour drive-through voting booths, and significantly increasing the authority partisan poll workers are allotted  — this battle is not limited to the Lone Star State. Since the nationwide For the People Act was blocked in the U.S. Senate, states have been left to their own devices to pass voter restriction laws. So far, 14 have tightened their voting laws, and they will be free to continue if there is no action taken nationally. 

So while the Democratic lawmakers from Texas deserting their state drew national attention, it is merely reflective of the continual battle for voter rights the entirety of the country is facing. 

US Rep. Marc Veasey (D-TX) and US Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) joined at left by Rep. Chris Turner, chairman of the Texas House Democratic Caucus, welcome Democratic members of the Texas legislature at the Capitol in Washington on July 13, 2021 (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite). 

Sources

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