Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is forcing a second special session in the state legislature Saturday to push through a series of policy items, with his so-called voter integrity bill being at the top of the list.
Abbott and the rest of his Republican Klan (no spelling error) have been unable to pass any of their new voter suppression laws since Democrats left the state, which left the House short of the quorum necessary to do business; they thwarted Republicans efforts during the House’s regular session in May and for the second time, the first special session that began in July and ends Friday, according to the Washington Post.
In case you have not been paying attention, the Texas GOP is doing everything short of asking non-white people to show freedom papers at the polls. The reason is because Texas is inevitably going to become a blue state in our lifetimes and the Republicans are trying to slow their fate by making it harder for non-white people to vote.
Per the AP, the GOP’s legislation will do the following, in part:
The bill is one of two major voting packages in Texas that mirrors a nationwide campaign by Republicans after former President Donald Trump made false claims about election fraud.
Voting rights groups say the measures would disproportionately impact racial and ethnic minority voters. In Texas, which already has some of the strictest voting laws in the U.S., the proposed legislation grants more power to partisan poll watchers and eliminates the option to cast a ballot via drive-thru. The bill also includes a provision requiring a doctor’s note for people with disabilities who want to vote by mail, although Republicans signaled during the debate that language could change.
Worst yet, the Republicans want to impose criminal penalties, per NPR:
One example is a provision that would create new requirements for people who are assisting voters. Among other things, they would have to take an oath swearing they didn’t encourage or coerce a voter into choosing them to help. They’d also have to swear they won’t influence the voter’s decisions in any way.
Thomas Buser Clancy with the ACLU of Texas says the legislation would make it a state jail felony if they violate that oath.
“But there is no requirement that that violation be knowing or with an intent to deceive,” he says. “So, all of a sudden, you have a situation where people are just trying to help their neighbor, their mom or dad, or even their community members, are going to be staring down a state jail felony if they make innocent mistakes.”
The bill also contains new rules and penalties for people who help someone voting by mail. Republicans say this is an effort to curb “ballot harvesting” in Texas, which is when third parties collect and turn in ballots for others. Republicans have said this practice often leads to fraud.
Republicans control both chambers of the assembly in Texas and are in the governor’s mansion, so there is virtually nothing state Democrats can do to stop the GOP passing these Jim Crow-style laws but to not show up. They have been in Washington, D.C., for months now petitioning congressional leadership to pass federal legislation to undermine the new restrictions. The problem, however, is Democrats in Washington have been laser-focused on passing President Joe Biden’s economic agenda items, including his infrastructure bill.
Texas Democrats say that they are willing to consider another quorum to prevent the passage of Republicans’ racist voter laws, per the Washington Post:
During a recent meeting, a majority of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus voted to deny quorum again if necessary, state Rep. Shawn Thierry (D) said in an interview. And the Mexican American Legislative Caucus is committed to doing the same, though no formal vote has been taken, said state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D). State Rep. Gina Hinojosa (D) said that the caucus is “as determined as ever” to fight with vigor but that it also “needs an assist from Washington.”
“The desperation from Texas is growing,” she said in an interview Thursday. “We are using every tool we have right now to protect the freedom to vote, but as the minority party we can only hold the line for so long. … We don’t know how much more emphatically we can stress this: Congress needs to act now.”
Saturday will tell us what Democrats will do, but it is likely they will stay out of the state and use the power of absence to show up for the voters of Texas. I’m not usually in favor of elected officials not showing up to work. But given these unique set of circumstances, Texas Democrats are doing the right thing, and if they need to hold up for even more time until the GOP gives in, I’m all for it.