Republicans in Georgia and Florida may have succeeded in passing racist, anti-voter restrictions that make it harder for people of color to vote. But Texas won’t be joining their ranks — at least for now.
The Associated Press has reported that on Sunday night, May 30, “Texas Democrats pulled off a dramatic, last-ditch walkout in the state House of Representatives to block the passage of one of the most restrictive voting bills in the U.S., leaving Republicans with no choice but to abandon a midnight deadline and declare the legislative session essentially over.”
According to the AP, “the revolt is one of the Democrats’ biggest protests to date against GOP efforts nationwide to impose stricter election laws, and they used the spotlight to urge President Joe Biden to act on voting rights.”
In a statement, Democratic state Rep. Carl Sherman explained their actions, saying, “We’ve said for so many years that we want more people to participate in our democracy. And it just seems that’s not the case.”
The evening transpired in a dramatic fashion. The AP reported that “one by one, Democrats left the House chamber until there was no longer the 100-member quorum needed to pass Senate Bill 7, which would have reduced polling hours, empowered poll watchers and scaled back ways to vote in Texas, which already has some of the nation’s strictest voting laws.”
In addition to making voting by mail and early voting more challenging, the bill would have also “made it easier for a judge to overturn an election” and would limit voting hours dramatically in the state, eliminating drive-thru voting and 24-hour polling centers that were recently approved and have proven incredibly popular with younger, urban voters.
After leaving the House, the Democratic representatives met again outside a nearby Black church to vent their frustrations over one of the last-minute changes to the Texas bill that would have prohibited Sunday voting before 1 p.m. — a motion directly targeted at keeping Black churchgoers from voting following Sunday services, which is a common practice in the South. The Democrats said they didn’t originally intend to break quorum and walk out on the vote but only did so after Republicans refused to take their questions while racing to pass the bill.
“It was a stunning turnabout from just 24 hours earlier when the bill seemed all but guaranteed to reach [Gov. Greg] Abbott’s desk,” AP said. “The Texas Senate had signed off before sunrise earlier Sunday after Republicans, who hold an 18-13 majority in the chamber, used a bare-knuckle procedural move to suspend the rules and take up the measure in the middle of the night.”
With the racist bill stopped, at least for now, Democrats in the state again reached out to President Biden for whatever assistance he might be able to provide.
“We knew today, with the eyes of the nation watching actions in Austin, that we needed to send a message, and that message is very, very clear: Mr. President, we need a national response to federal voting rights,” said Democratic state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer.
Biden later referred to the voter suppression bill in Texas, as well as the bills in Georgia and Florida, as “an assault on democracy.”
Sadly, the Texas victory may be short-lived. Abbott has already announced that he plans to call a special session of the House to revisit the legislation which missed its original deadline. He didn’t, however, say when this might occur. He has also said he plans to fine the Democrats who staged the walkout and “abandoned their responsibilities,” impacting their pay.
Still, Texas Democrats say they are undeterred.
“We may have won the war tonight, but the battle is not over,” said state Rep. Nicole Collier. “We will continue to fight and speak out against those measures that attempt to silence our voices.”
Related: For more recent diversity and inclusion news, click here.