Texas Democrats to Leave State as GOP Renews Attack on Voting Rights

Once again, the Texas GOP is pushing forward a bill that would suppress voting in the state, and once again, Democratic legislators in the state are planning to leave the state to stop it from passing.

At least 58 Democratic lawmakers intend to fly to the nation’s capital where they will participate in a rally in support of federal voting legislation, NBC News reported. The federal bill, the For the People Act, would expand voting rights across the country, ban partisan gerrymandering and reform the campaign finance system.

This will be the second time in recent months that Democrats in Texas have exercised this extreme option to stop voter suppression legislation. They also left the state in May to block an earlier bill that would restrict voting rights. By not showing up to the state capitol, the lawmakers deny Republicans a quorum — the minimum number of legislators required to be present in order to conduct business according to the House rules — essentially stopping the bill in its tracks.

The latest version of the voting bill created by Texas Republicans looks similar to the earlier one Democrats opposed, although without some of the extreme measures that would have limited Sunday voting and allowed elections officials to overturn a result if there are allegations of voter fraud. Still, the bills do include other voter suppression measures, such as banning drive-through voting and ending extended early voting hours — both of which were implemented during the pandemic — in addition to creating new, stricter identification requirements for Texans who choose to vote by mail. It would also give more access to partisan poll watchers and would prohibit election officials from proactively sending mail-in ballot applications to voters.

By leaving the state, Democrats could face legal consequences. Republican leadership can order the Texas Department of Public Safety to find and arrest any absent lawmakers, but whether that authority extends outside the state is unclear, the Texas Tribune reported. Republican House Speaker Dade Phelan has said that has not ruled out using some of his powers to compel the Democrats to return. “My Democratic colleagues have been quoted saying all options are on the table, and… respectfully, all options are on the table for myself as well,” Phelan told KXAN-TV.

But Democrats insist that this protest is about a larger issue, not just Texas. “This is a moment that is going to wake America up,” Rep. Trey Martinez Fisher, who organized the initiative to leave the state, told the New York Times. “We have to decide if we are going to stand for democracy. We want the nation to join us and we want the U.S. Senate to hear us and act.”

Vice President Kamala Harris voiced her support for the legislators on Monday. “I applaud them standing for the rights of all Americans and all Texans to express their voice through their vote, unencumbered,” Harris said. “I will say that they are leaders who are marching in the path that so many others before did when they fought and many died for our right to vote.”

President Biden has said he will sign the For the People Act if Congress passes it.

Since the 2020 election and Donald Trump’s false and dangerous insistence, without evidence, that massive fraud took place, Republican states have been passing voter suppression laws under the guise of securing the vote. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, in 2021 alone, 14 states have enacted 22 new laws restricting voting access, and as of the end of May, 61 additional voting bills with restrictive provisions were making their way through 18 state legislatures.

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