As the clock neared midnight, Texas Democratic lawmakers decided it was time to take dramatic action to block the passage of a massive overhaul of the state’s electoral laws. The measure seemed almost certain to pass, but just over an hour before the deadline, the Democrats went on strike, depriving their Republican counterparts of the 100-member quorum required to get the measure passed. It was one of the largest protests by Democrats to date against efforts by Republicans across the country to restrict the right to vote. And it was historical too. It was only the fourth time in Texas history that lawmakers decided to break the quorum to protest a law. The last time the strategy was used was in 2003, when 50 Democrats fled to Oklahoma to protest the redistribution.
The Democratic victory is likely to be short-lived. Although the midnight deadline meant that anything not exceeded by then would be dead for the year, Governor Greg Abbott made it clear that he would bring the measure back up in a special session. “Electoral integrity and bail reform were issues of urgency for this legislative period. They STILL have to exist. ” Abbott tweeted. “You will be placed on the agenda for the special session.” Abbott didn’t say when the special session would begin, but it could be Tuesday.
Although temporary, failure to pass the bill meant a major defeat for Abbott and Republican lawmakers, who identified the sweeping bill as the state’s top priority. The Democrats launched their strike after Chris Turner, the chairman of the House of Representatives, texted his colleagues at 10:35 p.m. Central Time telling them to pick up their belongings. “Exit the chamber discreetly,” wrote Turner. “Don’t go to the gallery. Leave the building. “Turner later said the strike was out of frustration with what the Democrats perceived as an attempt by the Republicans not even to listen to their objections.” It became apparent that the Republicans would cut the debate off to help her Enforce Vote Suppression Act, “Turner said in a statement.” At this point, we had no choice but to take exceptional measures to protect our voters and their voting rights.
After leaving, Democrats met outside a black church and held a press conference. The venue was set to underscore their objection to a last-minute amendment to the bill that would have banned Sunday voting before 1 p.m., which would have disproportionately hurt black believers. “We may have won the war tonight, but the battle is not over yet,” said Democratic State MP Nicole Collier. The bill would also have made it easier for a judge to overturn an election, abolish drive-through voting, 24-hour voting centers and, among other things, give partisan election observers more powers. “We remain vigilant of any attempt to bring this racist law back in a special session,” Sarah Labowitz, director of politics and advocacy for the ACLU of Texas, said in a statement.
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