In a dramatic move on Sunday night, Democratic lawmakers in Texas
abruptly blocked a restrictive voting bill, walking out of the chamber en masse before the midnight deadline to send the legislation to the state's governor
The dramatic move was at least a short-term victory over the GOP-backed Senate
Bill 7, which Democrats
and voting rights
advocates have compared to Jim Crow laws
that largely barred Black Americans from voting in the twentieth century. The bill would include new restrictions on absentee voting, empower poll watchers from political parties, and ban drive-through voting and 24-hour polling sites, which Democrats and voting rights advocates have compared to Jim Crow laws that largely barred Black Americans from voting in the twentieth century.
The bill would also make it easier to reverse an election result.
Despite the blocking move, Gov. Greg Abbott
(R) said the bill was still a “must-pass emergency” in his mind and would be added to a special session agenda later this year alongside a bail reform bill.
“It is deeply disappointing and concerning for Texans
that neither will reach my desk,” Abbott said in a statement released early Monday. “Ensuring the integrity of our elections
and reforming a broken bail system continue to be emergencies in Texas.”
Election Integrity and Bail Reform were emergency items for this legislative session, and they STILL need to be passed. They will be added to the special session agenda, and legislators will be expected to have worked out the details when they arrive at the Capitol
for the special session. — Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) May 31, 2021
He did not specify a start date for the session, but The New York
Times reports that it could begin as soon as June 1.
If passed, the bill will become one of the country's most restrictive voting laws, and it is part of Republicans
' ongoing effort to rewrite the country's laws in the aftermath of former President Donald Trump
's loss in the 2020 election
. Trump and his allies have continued to spread baseless claims of voter fraud in their attempt to make it much harder to vote, unveiling laws that would make it much harder to vote.
State Rep. Chris Turner (D) organized the Democratic walkout by sending an email to his caucus members at 10:35 p.m. local time, instructing them to leave the chamber quietly.
Turner wrote, "Do not go to the gallery, leave the building."
Because of the mass exodus, the chamber fell 14 votes
short of the required 100-member quorum.
“It became clear that Republicans were going to shut down debate in order to ram through their vote suppression legislation,” Turner told the Times shortly after midnight, “and at that point, we had no choice but to take extraordinary measures to protect our constituents and their right to vote.”