Austin, Texas – Midnight was fast approaching. Any moment now, the Texas House of Representatives will sign one of the most restrictive new voting laws in America.
It was 10:35 p.m., suddenly, every Democrat on the floor got a text message.
“Members, take your keys and exit the chamber carefully. Do not go to the gallery. leave the building. “
It was a dramatic, last-ditch rebellion: one after the other, the Democrats proceeded to exit and disappear into the corridors. The voting machines on his unclaimed desk were locked. In the unlikely event of a “call of the House”—an extreme measure to secure a quorum, mobilizing state troops to forcibly repatriate absent members—Democrats chose a hideout that was unmistakable in meaning: Mt. Zion Baptist Church, a black house of worship more than 2 miles (3.22 kilometers) away.
The rebellion gave Democrats and voting rights allies a morale-boosting moment across the country, with months of loss in GOP-controlled state homes, where Republicans wave a string of strict voting laws in response to the false claims of former President Donald Trump Ran to make The election was stolen from them.
But the walkout in Texas is likely only a fleeting victory: Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who declared new voting laws in Texas a priority, before announcing that he would order a special session to end, was held by each Democrat in the House. Waiting to run off the floor. work. And he began punishing lawmakers, saying on Monday that he would veto the part of the state budget that pays legislators’ salaries.
Abbott tweeted, “No salary to those who relinquish their responsibilities.”
He has not told when he will pull the MPs back to work.
“I understand why they were doing this,” said Republican State Representative Briscoe Caine, who introduced the bill in the House. “But we all swore to Texans that we would be here to do our job.”
Coming in at 67 pages, the Texas bill would have reduced voting hours, empowered poll watchers and reduced voting methods. That included a ban on drive-thru voting centers and 24-hour polling stations, both used around Houston last year, showing how Republicans went after Texas’ biggest Democratic stronghold.
There were many views that Democrats had spent months fighting, but they protested that others were stuck at the last minute. This includes not only new early voting limits for Sundays, but also a provision that could make it easier to reverse the election. Under the bill, a judge can nullify a candidate’s win if the number of fraudulent votes can change the result, even if it is proven that the fraud did in fact affect the result.
It’s the kind of provision that could allow a favorable judge to favor a candidate who makes sweeping claims of fraud with little specific evidence—as Trump did with almost no success. Democrats and voting groups were particularly concerned about it as the GOP continues to embrace Trump, even after he tried to overturn the 2020 election on bogus claims of widespread fraud.
Hours before the vote on Sunday, Democrats packed into a back room with Republican House Speaker Dead Felon.
“We weren’t getting satisfactory answers about why the bill has gotten so bad,” said Democratic State Rep. Gina Hinojosa. “Most of us went through that meeting realizing that this was our only option.”
But even before that, Hinojosa said, the walkout was gaining momentum. She said a meeting of black and Hispanic lawmakers in the House made clear that there was “anger, sadness, intolerance” about the passing of the bill. Another option was running out of clock but with greater risk: Hinojosa said Democrats got word that any attempt to filebuster the bill would cause Republicans to scuttle the debate and vote.
It was the first time in nearly 20 years that Democrats staged a quorum break in Texas.
According to the Brennan Center for Justice, a voting rights group, the Texas bill’s recession was a rare win for Democrats in a year, which 14 states have enacted new laws tightening voting restrictions. These laws have generally been introduced by Republican-controlled state legislatures and increasingly signed by GOP governors. Democrats’ possible measure of a wave of sanctions – a sweeping national voting bill – has stuck in Congress.
“We have been following example after example in Republican state legislatures, and this is the culmination in terms of its raw racism and reduced gray and black voters’ ability to vote,” said Fred Wertheimer, founder of the Voting Rights Group. Democracy 21. “The way they are fighting in Texas tells a story of how bad this law is and that Democrats are prepared to do everything they can imagine to prevent this law from happening. “
Democrats and voting rights groups also hope that Texas gives Congress a shot at the bill, known as the For the People Act or HR1. The measure has been halted in the Senate because some Democrats are unwilling to end the filibuster. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has scheduled debate on the bill to begin in late June in hopes of breaking the deadlock, and activists hope Texas Democrats can help use quorum rules to block the legislation. The courage of would inspire his Washington, D.C., counterparts in the US Senate to eliminate such rules.
At least, Democrats hope the walkout has bought them some time. When he left the church, it was after midnight.
“We may have won the war tonight but the fight is not over,” said Democratic State Rep. Nicole Collier.
Associated Press writers Nicolas Riccardi and Acacia Coronado in Denver contributed to this report.
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