Texas Democrats in the state’s House blocked an election integrity bill on Sunday night, walking out of the floor of the chamber, thereby leaving Republicans without a quorum to vote on the measure, Senate Bill 7.
Texas lawmakers had until midnight to vote on the bill following its passage in the Texas Senate. According to the Washington Post, the House Democrat Chairman passed along instructions to his Democrat colleagues less than two hours before the bill’s deadline.
“Members, take your key and leave the chamber discreetly,” Turner reportedly wrote. “Do not go to the gallery. Leave the building.”
In a statement, Turner said it “became obvious Republicans were going to cut off debate to ram through their vote suppression legislation,” giving Democrats “no choice but to take extraordinary measures to protect our constituents and their right to vote.”
Texas Democrat Rep. Jessica González said Democrats decided to show that they “weren’t going to take it.”
“We needed to be part of the process. Cutting us out completely — I mean, this law will affect every single voter in Texas,” she added, referencing the measure that parallels the voting integrity laws in Georgia and Florida.
The bill itself put more restrictions on voting by mail and “enhanced civil and criminal penalties for election administrators, voters and those seeking to assist them.”
It would also “limit early voting hours, curtail local voting options, further clamp down on mail-in voting and expand freedoms for partisan poll watchers, among several other changes to elections,” according to a summary from the Texas Tribune:
The bill clamps down on voting by mail, making it a state jail felony for local officials to distribute applications to request mail-in ballots to voters who didn’t ask for them. This ban was also a response to Harris County’s failed attempt to send applications to all 2.4 million registered voters last year, even though other Texas counties sent applications to voters 65 and older without controversy. Although those voters automatically qualify to vote by mail, SB 7 bans counties from proactively mailing unrequested applications to them in the future. Political parties can still send unsolicited applications, as both Republicans and Democrats often do before elections.
It creates new identification requirements for voters looking to cast their ballots by mail and sets a higher standard for who can qualify to vote by mail based on a disability. It also grants partisan poll watchers “free movement” within a voting site.
In a statement to the outlet, President Joe Biden referred to the measure as “un-American,” casting it as a bill that “attacks the sacred right to vote.”
“It’s part of an assault on democracy that we’ve seen far too often this year — and often disproportionately targeting Black and Brown Americans,” Biden claimed.
“It’s wrong and un-American,” he added. “In the 21st century, we should be making it easier, not harder, for every eligible voter to vote.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) released a statement following the Democrats’ successful attempt to block the measure, promising that election integrity and bail reform will be added to the special session agenda.
“I declared Election Integrity and Bail Reform to be must-pass emergency items for this legislative session. It is deeply disappointing and concerning for Texans that neither will reach my desk,” he said. “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.”