Texas Democrats abandoned the House floor on the night of May 30 in an effort to prevent the passage of a sweeping election overhaul bill that had already passed the state Senate.
The Democrat lawmakers managed to defeat the bill temporarily by breaking the quorum needed to hold a final vote on it. According to the state House rules, at least 100 members are required to be present for the chamber to conduct business.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican who supports the bill, responded to the Democrat’s move in a statement on May 30, vowing to call a special session to revisit the bill.
State Rep. Chris Turner, chair of the House Democratic Caucus, appeared to be the main impetus for the walkout. According to several media outlets, Turner had sent a text message informing other Democrats to “leave the chamber discreetly” ahead of the midnight deadline.
The Democrat lawmakers then confirmed their move following the walkout saying that they had used their “last tool” to kill the bill.
“One of the many great traditions of the African-American church in this country is ‘Souls to the Polls.’ Republicans were determined to take that away.”
The Texas House Republican Caucus responded to the move, condemning the actions of their colleagues.
“These individuals quit on their constituents and they quit on Texas. The Caucus is fully committed to taking all necessary steps to deliver on election integrity and bail reform, two issues flagged by our governor as emergency items.”
Officials who send mail-in ballots to people who didn’t request them could also face criminal penalties, should the bill be enacted into law.
President Joe Biden has also weighed in on the bill, characterizing the voting integrity law as an “attack” against the right to vote.
“I call again on Congress to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. And I continue to call on all Americans, of every party and persuasion, to stand up for our democracy and protect the right to vote and the integrity of our elections.”
Florida and Georgia have both passed bills that add measures to protect the sanctity of the ballot box and to add security to other methods of voting. The laws have faced significant pushback from Democrats who say the bills amount to voter suppression.