Flanked by Texas State House Democrats, U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey (D-TX) (C) speaks as Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) (R) and Texas State Rep. Chris Turner (D-District 101) (L), Chairman of the Texas House Democratic Caucus, listen during a press conference on voting rights outside of the U.S. Capitol on July 13, 2021 in Washington, DC.
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The Texas Senate passed Republican-led electoral law Tuesday night after dozen of House Democrats fled the state to avoid a vote on the measure.
In an 18-4 party vote, Senate Republicans passed the controversial bill, which Democrats and supporters of electoral rights say will suppress the votes of people of color and people with disabilities.
“This bill was just the latest and latest attack by the Trump Republicans on democracy across Texas and our nation,” said Rep. Ron Reynolds, one of the escaped Democrats, at a press conference on Wednesday.
Up to 58 Texas Democrats moved to Washington, DC Monday and Tuesday to deny Republicans the quorum required to conduct business in the Chamber. However, the Senate still had a quorum on Tuesday with 22 of its 31 members in attendance, allowing this Chamber to vote and pass Senate Law 1.
Legislation will falter unless the Texas Democrats return to the state before GOP Governor Greg Abbott’s 30-day special session ends. Abbott has threatened to arrest state lawmakers upon their return, according to the Associated Press.
Texas is among several states trying to pass laws restricting voter access, due to repeated false claims by former President Donald Trump that the 2020 elections were stolen by widespread voter fraud.
The proposals in the bill passed on Tuesday include a ban on drive-through voting, restrictions on 24-hour voting options and new identification requirements for postal votes. The bill would also prohibit local officials from mailing absentee ballots to ineligible voters.
The Democrats argued that the bill proposed by the GOP Senators was an attack on voting rights designed to suppress voter turnout.
“The Republicans have broken their promise to our seniors and the disabled by making it harder to vote and also to Latinos and African Americans,” said Senator Carol Alvarado, one of the escaped Democrats, at a news conference on Wednesday.
Republicans, however, claim that the law will secure the electoral process, calling it the “Texas Election Integrity Act.”
“This bill is both about making voting easier and making cheating harder,” said Senator Bryan Hughes, author of the bill, told the Texas Tribune Tuesday.
According to the Tribune, Hughes attributed the backlash to his bill to “a terrible, misleading, false national debate from Washington”.
Texas Freedom Caucus MP Mayes Middleton (R-TX) (C) speaks to the media at the Texas Capitol in Austin, Texas on July 13, 2021.
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The Texas Democrats said they fled to the country’s capital to pressure Congress to pass voting laws like the For The People Act, while Republican-led state parliaments across the country sought to change the voting rules.
“We also know we’re living on borrowed time in Texas, and we can’t stay here indefinitely to cut the time to stop Republican attacks on voters,” said Rep. Rhetta Bowers, another Democrat who fled testimony Tuesday. “So we need Congress to act now to pass the For the People Act. The Texas Democrats will do everything in our power to fight back. But we need Congress to act now.”
Vice President Kamala Harris met with the Texas Democrats on Tuesday, and Senator Joe Manchin, DW.Va., is also expected to meet with them. Manchin didn’t respond on Tuesday when asked if he would support a Senate spin-off to pass a voting law. He has previously spoken out against changes to the filibuster.
President Joe Biden also gave a grand speech in Philadelphia on Tuesday denouncing his predecessor’s “big lie” about a stolen election. The President urged Congress to pass the For The People Act and restore the Voting Rights Act.
More than 150 companies, including Amazon, Target and Pepsi, have also supported the update of the voting rights law in a new letter published on Wednesday.