Texas Democrats stage walkout to block passage of sweeping election overhaul package


Texas Democrats walked off the state House floor late Sunday night to prevent the passage of a massive overhaul of state elections procedures that would add new impediments to voting in future elections and limit the availability of certain types of voting predominantly used by low income and handicapped people.

The late-night drama came after hours of debate and procedural objections on Senate Bill 7, which had passed the state’s upper chamber early Sunday morning and looked to be headed to Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) desk for his signature.

The Texas Tribune reported that Democrats appeared to be slowly leaving the floor throughout the night before the remaining members of the party walked out around 10:30 p.m. That left the state House without enough members present for a quorum and Republicans unable to pass the bill before its midnight deadline.

“We decided to come together and say we weren’t going to take it,” state Rep. Jessica González (D) told the Washington Post after the walkout. “We needed to be part of the process. Cutting us out completely — I mean this law will affect every single voter in Texas.”

Abbott quickly vowed to add the elections bill to the agenda of a special session to address redistricting.

“I declared Election Integrity and Bail Reform to be must-pass emergency items for this legislative session,” he said in a tweeted statement, adding, “Ensuring the integrity of our elections and reforming a broken bail system remain emergencies in Texas. They will be added to the special session agenda.”

“Legislators will be expected to have worked out the details when they arrive at the Capitol for the special session,” he said.

Full statement here: https://t.co/xDz3JwvoPP pic.twitter.com/cSQ8ux2xjv

— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) May 31, 2021

The Texas bill is one of the most sweeping elections bills to come out of a GOP-led legislature this year.

“This bill is the product of years of hard work and deliberation by past and current legislators,” state Sen. Bryan Hughes (R) and state Rep. Briscoe Cain (R) said in a joint statement announcing the final agreement on legislative language on Friday. “Even as the national media minimizes the importance of election integrity, the Texas legislature has not bent to headlines or corporate virtue signaling.”

It places new limits on early voting and curbside voting; prohibits round-the-clock voting centers and voting facilities in outdoor structures like parking garages; and eliminates straight-ticket voting, something Texas voters have used for decades. It limits the use of drop boxes by requiring absentee voters to hand their ballots directly to an elections official.

Some of those provisions are a direct reaction to voting provisions used in Harris County, home of Houston, where elections officials last year opened 24-hour early vote centers and expanded access to drive-in voting facilities.

“This bill does away with that 24-hour voting,” said Lina Hidalgo (D), the Harris County judge. “Dri… (Read more)