Crying “voter suppression,” Democrats in Texas mobilized Sunday evening to stop a major election integrity bill in its tracks. The surprise move came just hours after Republicans passed the measure in the state Senate along party lines.
GOP Gov. Greg Abbott has vowed to hold a special session to finish passing the legislation after Democrats walked out of the House to disrupt its passage, the Associated Press reported.
The move followed months of agitation from Democrats against efforts to make elections more secure, which they have attacked as racist and undemocratic.
President Joe Biden had dismissed the Texas bill as an “assault on democracy,” the AP reports, and corporations like Dell and American Airlines had intervened on his behalf, following the example of “woke” corporations in Georgia. “It’s wrong and un-American,” Biden said.
Dems kill Texas election reform bill
Despite overcharged rhetoric from Democrats, Texas Senate Bill 7 in part simply rolls back new voting procedures enacted in 2020 because of the coronavirus, like drive-thru voting and 24-hour voting, which were both implemented in Harris County, according to Fox News.
The imprint of the 2020 election controversy is clear. The bill reportedly imposes criminal penalties for interfering with poll watchers — echoing complaints from Republicans last year of a lack of transparency — and makes it a felony to send out unsolicited mail-in ballot applications.
The bill also makes it easier for a judge to overturn an election over suspected voter fraud, and shortens the hours for voting on Sunday, which Democrats called an attempt to stop Black parishioners from voting, according to the AP.
“The battle is not over”
Republicans had hoped the bill would cap a legislative session that saw them pass strict laws against abortion and defunding the police, and in the morning, it had looked inevitable that they would succeed.
Gov. Abbott called the surprising turnaround “deeply disappointing” and promised to call lawmakers back in a special session, the AP reported, even as some Republicans slammed legislative leaders for failing to act sooner.
“Democrats can only kill a bill that Republican leadership lets them kill,” state Rep. Bryan Slaton (R) said, according to the Texas Tribune.
For now, Texas Democrats are cautiously optimistic.
“We may have won the war tonight but the battle is not over,” state Rep. Nicole Collier (D) said, as the AP reported. “We will continue to fight and speak out against those measures that attempt to silence our voices.”