On Sunday night, May 30, Republican lawmakers in Texas were on the verge of passing a sweeping election bill that would foster some of the most robust voting restrictions in the country, and disapproving Democrats held a dramatic walkout to block it.
“We were determined to kill this bill in any way we could,” said Texas House Democratic Caucus Chairman Chris Turner, who orchestrated the attempt.
Senate Bill 7 passed through the state’s upper chamber early Sunday morning and moved to the Texas House of Representatives for the house vote before reaching the desk of Gov. Greg Abbott for his signature. The GOP at present has a majority of 83-67, which means the bill would almost certainly get approved.
Facing a slim chance of stopping the legislation, the Democrats resorted to leaving the House chamber en mass before the final voting session began.
The New York Post reported that Turner directed the tactic by sending out a message to party members at 10:35 p.m. local time that read: “Members, take your key and leave the chamber discreetly. Do not go to the gallery. Leave the building.”
They proceeded with the plan, leaving the Republicans lacking enough members to form a quorum to pass the bill before the midnight deadline. By 11 p.m., the absence of Democrat members resulted in an obvious adjournment.
Senate Bill 7 seeks to forbid drive-thru and 24-hour voting. Additionally, if state officials encourage voters to switch to mail-in-voting, they will face the consequence of felony penalties. Mail-in-voting has been criticized for carrying too many loopholes for result manipulation.
Furthermore, if “the number of votes illegally cast in the election is equal to or greater than the number of votes necessary to change the outcome of an election,” the courts could dismiss the outcome without the need to scrutinize for traces of potential fraudulence.
Opposing the legislation, the Democrats argued that it was a sheer violation of voting rights, with President Joe Biden saying that it “attacks the sacred right to vote.”
“It’s part of an assault on democracy that we’ve seen far too often this year—and often disproportionately targeting Black and Brown Americans,” Biden said in a statement released on Saturday, May 29, reported by The Hill. “It’s wrong and un-American. In the 21st century, we should be making it easier, not harder, for every eligible voter to vote.”
“We decided to come together and say we weren’t going to take it,” state Rep. Jessica González (D) told the Washington Post after the dramatic walkout to block the sweeping bill. “We needed to be part of the process. Cutting us out completely—I mean this law will affect every single voter in Texas.”
On Monday, state Gov. Greg Abbott responded to the attempt, threatening the lawmakers with payment suspension.
“I will veto Article 10 of the budget passed by the legislature. Article 10 funds the legislative branch. No pay for those who abandon their responsibilities. Stay tuned,” Abbott declared in a statement published on Twitter.