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Texas Dems Flee to DC to Avoid Vote on State Voting Restrictions

July 13, 2021 by Dan McCue
In this May 31, 2021, photo, Texas state Rep. Jessica Gonzalez speaks during a news conference in Austin, Texas, after House Democrats pulled off a dramatic, last-ditch walkout and blocked one of the most restrictive voting bills in the U.S. from passing before a midnight deadline. Democrats in the Texas Legislature were planning Monday, July 12, to leave the state in another revolt against a GOP overhaul of election laws. (AP Photo/Acacia Coronado, File)

WASHINGTON – At least 51 of 67 members of the Texas House fled their state on Monday, determined to stay on the lam in the nation’s capital to thwart a vote on new voting restrictions in the Lone Star state.

After arriving at Dulles Airport Monday night, the Democrats said they plan to remain out of state until the end of the special legislative session in Texas, which runs through Aug. 6.

Their absence cripples the Texas legislature’s ability to act on any bills in a session called for the express purpose of advancing the GOP-backed legislation that would enact the new voting rules.

State Rep. Chris Turner, a Grand Prairie Democrat, told reporters Monday night that the delegation specifically chose Washington, D.C. as their destination to press Congress to enact voting protections.

“We need them to act now,” he said.

In the meantime, Texas Republicans are livid.

“Texas Democrats’ decision to break a quorum of the Texas Legislature and abandon the Texas State Capitol inflicts harm on the very Texans who elected them to serve,” Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement. “As they fly across the country on cushy private planes, they leave undone issues that can help their districts and our state.”

This is the Texas legislators’ second trip to Washington in the past month to convey that message. Three weeks ago a delegation of Democratic state representatives and senators traveled to the U.S. Capital to advocate for a pair of federal bills. 

The first would preempt significant portions of the Texas bills and set new federal standards for elections like same-day and automatic voter registration. 

The second would restore sweeping safeguards for voters of color by reinstating federal oversight of elections in states like Texas with troubling records of discriminating against voters of color.

The bill currently in limbo in Austin, Texas is similar in most respects to the voting bill the Republicans put forward during the regular session.

That bill  prompted Democrats to walk out and break quorum in late May. 

Both Republican bills would ban drive-thru and 24-hour voting options, enhance access for partisan poll watchers and prohibit local election officials from proactively distributing applications to request mail-in ballots. 

They also include language to further restrict the state’s voting-by-mail rules, including new ID requirements for absentee voters.

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