Texas Democrats’ late-night walkout scuppers Republican efforts to restrict voting rights
The NAACP knows exactly what this group is trying to do after last year’s historic election turnout – and it has nothing to do with security.
SB7 bill that would introduce restrictions making it harder to vote fails to pass before midnight deadline after Democrats leave House
Texas Republicans have failed in their efforts to push through one of the most restrictive voting measures in the US after Democrats walked out of the House at the last minute, leaving the bill languishing ahead of a midnight deadline.
The exodus came at the instruction of Chris Turner, the House Democratic chairman, who told colleagues at 10.35pm to “take your key and leave the chamber discreetly”, referring to the key that locks the voting mechanism on their desks, the Washington Post reported.
The Democratic state representative Jessica González said after the walkout: “We decided to come together and say we weren’t going to take it.” She said she objected to the bill’s content and the way it was crafted with no input from her party. “We needed to be part of the process. Cutting us out completely – I mean this law will affect every single voter in Texas.”
Fellow Democrat Carl Sherman said: “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.”
Governor Greg Abbott said the failure of the legislation was “deeply disappointing and concerning” but vowed to bring it back at a special session at an unspecified date.
Republicans showed restraint in criticising Democrats for the move. Republican state representative Briscoe Cain, who carried the bill in the House, said: “I am disappointed that some members decided to break quorum. We all know what that meant. I understand why they were doing it, but we all took an oath to Texans that we would be here to do our jobs.”
Less than 24 hours earlier, the bill seemed all but guaranteed to reach Abbott’s desk. The bill had passed in the Senate on party lines around 6am on Sunday, after eight hours of questioning by Democrats who had virtually no path to stop it. However, a Democrat walkout prevented a quorum in the House.
In closed-door negotiations, Republicans added language to Senate Bill 7 that could make it easier for a judge to overturn an election. They also pushed back the start of Sunday voting, when many Black churchgoers go to the polls. The measure would also eliminate drive-thru voting and 24-hour polling centers, both of which Harris county, a Democratic stronghold, introduced last year.
Critics say such measures suppress turnout among minorities likely to vote Democratic. On Sunday morning Hakeem Jeffries of New York, a member of Democratic leadership in the US House, called SB7 “shameful”.