Texas Democrats made a political move worthy of Frank Underwood from the House of Cards series: they left the state House of Representatives last minute to leave Republican legislators without a quorum and momentarily prevent the approval of the HB 7 election bill.
HB 7 is a bill challenged by progressive voting rights activists because it eliminates, among other things, the option to vote from the car, gives considerable power to partisan poll watchers, and creates new requirements for voting by mail in Texas, one of the toughest election law states in the country.
The Democratic “retreat” came in the midst of a heated debate on the night of Sunday, May 30, where the new election measures that would be implemented in Texas with HB 7 were discussed.
For Democrats – including U.S. President Joe Biden – the election bill is too restrictive. Democrats in Texas, in tune with their national narrative, compared HB 7 to the Jim Crow laws of the 20th century because, according to them, the bill would affect the democratic rights of black communities.
Democratic state legislators have made this equivalence in every Republican state where stricter election laws are being passed to preserve “election security.”
According to The Washington Post, “The exodus from the floor came after Chris Turner, the House Democratic chairman, sent instructions to colleagues at 10:35 p.m. Central time instructing them to exit the House.”
Texas state Rep. Jessica Gonzalez (D) criticized Republicans for leaving Democrats “out” of the bill. “We decided to come together and say we weren’t going to take it,” Gonzales told the Post. “We needed to be part of the process. Cutting us out completely — I mean, this law will affect every single voter in Texas.”
For his part, Rep. Dade Phelan, who serves as GOP chairman at the Texas Capitol, questioned Democrats for leaving the House and not voting on other bills with bipartisan support. “Texans should not have to pay the consequences of the actions – or in this case, inaction – of these members,” Phelan told the Post, explaining that a large portion of Texans support “making our elections stronger and safer.”
Texas Democrats unlikely to block the bill
The election bill is backed not only by Republican lawmakers, but also by the state’s governor, Greg Abbott (R) who wrote on Twitter that he would call a special session and commented that “Legislators will be expected to have worked out the details when they arrive at the Capitol for the special session.”
The governor also released a statement on the importance of passing the bill to preserve security and confidence in elections.
“I declared Election Integrity and Bail Reform to be must-pass emergency items for this legislative session. It is deeply disappointing and concerning for Texans that neither will reach my desk. Ensuring the integrity of our elections and reforming a broken bail system remain emergencies in Texas,” read part of the statement.
With the Republican majority in the state House and Governor Abbott’s support, it looks complex for Democrats to reverse the bill.
Democrats and Republicans at odds over election laws
After the controversial November elections, where allegations of fraud by former President Donald Trump did not transcend, election laws in the United States began to be one of the most passionate partisan battlefronts.
Democrats want to “expand” voting rights laws by relaxing state rules, as happened in the 2020 elections.
Republicans argue that Democratic goals weaken the electoral system. In addition, they also explain that it is time to make changes with legislatures because American democracy faces no small problem: growing citizen distrust in the electoral system.
In the presidential elections there were a series of irregularities that caused concern among conservatives who now seek to “strengthen” the electoral system in their states, which led Republicans in Georgia, Florida, Texas and other states to design bills that worry Democrats and their allies.