Texas is already one of the hardest states to vote in, but that hasn’t stopped Texas Republicans from trying to add even more restrictions to their already restrictive voting process. Their latest attempt at suppressing the vote has run into pushback, as state Democrats plan to leave the state to prevent the latest bill from being passed.
According to NBC News, the special legislative session was called for by Gov. Greg Abbott when the previous attempt to pass new voting restrictions failed as a result of state Democrats walking out of the regular session earlier this year. Last weekend’s marathon session went for over 24 hours and saw hundreds of people wait to speak out against the new restrictions that would ban curbside and drive-thru voting, implement new ID requirements for voting by mail, and would increase criminal penalties for election officials.
“What we see today is greater suppression in legislation to provide less access to the polls,” one resident said, according to CBS News. “Texas already has some of the most restrictive voting laws in the country,” Democratic House Rep. Erin Zwiener said during the session. “This is going to create even more hurdles [for] people voting.”
Illustrating Zwiener’s point, a Texas man who waited six hours to vote was arrested last week and held on $100,000 bail because he voted only a few months before his parole was set to end. He didn’t know he was ineligible to vote because, well, the state never told him he wasn’t able to.
Texas: Where you can carry a gun without a license, but you damn sure better not try to vote.
House Bill 3 and Senate Bill 1 have both advanced as a result of the marathon sessions and in an effort to block the passage of both bills, state Democrats have decided to leave Texas en masse.
From NBC News:
To block the currently pending legislation, the Democratic lawmakers would have to remain away through the end of the special session, which can last as many as 30 days under the state’s constitution.
Though lawmakers did it briefly in May, breaking quorum is still a rare step. In May 2003, more than 50 state House Democrats left the state to try to block a redistricting proposal supported by the Republican majority. After the plan ultimately passed the state House, The Chicago Tribune reported at the time, Democratic state senators then fled to New Mexico, before eventually a defector reinstated quorum.
The redistricting plan eventually passed the Senate in October. The redistricting bill at the time was known as House Bill 3 — the same legislative moniker as one of current session’s voting bills.
An estimated 58 Texas Democrats are part of the mass exodus, which will see most of them flying to Washington, D.C., to advocate for federal officials to do more in combating the rise of restrictive voting laws across the country. The legislators could face arrest and be legally compelled to return to the state Capitol, and state Republicans may ask the Department of Public Safety to track down the fleeing Democrats.