Texas recently became the latest in a string of GOP-led states to advance legislation designed to strengthen election integrity and address concerns about voter fraud.
Democratic lawmakers in the state, however, restored to last-ditch measures in an effort to stall or prevent the passage of a controversial bill.
“Do not go to the gallery”
Among other things, SB7 would require voters to request a mail-in ballot to take advantage of absentee voting. Other provisions are focused on updating voter rolls, imposing tougher penalties for misconduct by poll workers, and providing more protections to poll watchers.
Just an hour before the state House was set to dismiss for the summer following the bill’s passage in the Senate, Democrats in the chamber staged a mass walkout in protest.
According to the Texas Tribune, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Chris Turner sent a text to his colleagues in which he urged them to take part in the mass exodus.
“Leave the chamber discretely,” he wrote. “Do not go to the gallery. Leave the building.”
As a result of the stunt, Democratic legislators denied Republicans the quorum needed for a vote, thus ensuring the bill could not be passed on the GOP’s schedule. Roughly 30 lawmakers were later seen entering Mt. Zion Baptist Church in East Austin, which is located a short distance from the House.
“Strong, consequential bills”
Republicans previously signaled that they would employ a procedural move to halt any Democratic filibuster, an action that appears to have prompted the walkout.
Texas Legislative Black Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Nicole Collier explained that the protest was the only remaining tactical decision for her party.
“We saw that coming,” acknowledged the Fort Worth Democrat of GOP plans to call for a vote. “We’ve used all the tools in our toolbox to fight this bill. And tonight we pulled out that last one.”
House Speaker Dade Phelan, a Republican, denounced the decision by those on the other side of the aisle, asserting: “Today, on the second to last day of session, a number of members have chosen to disrupt the legislative process by abandoning the legislative chamber before our work was done. In doing so, these members killed a number of strong, consequential bills with broad bipartisan support.”
Republican Gov. Greg Abbott reacted to the news with a tweet announcing that he would call for a special legislative session and expected lawmakers “to have worked out the details when they arrive at the Capitol.”