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Texas Dems Flee to D.C. to Stop Voting Restrictions and Pressure Congress

Texas Democrats have fled the state for Washington, D.C., in an effort to prevent their Republican counterparts in the state legislature from passing what they consider repressive voter suppression laws. As a wave of state-level legislation seeks to make voting harder following the 2020 election, the Dems from Texas are the latest to try to pressure the U.S. Congress to pass federal legislation to protect what’s left of the national democracy.

As the Texas Tribune reported, the Lone Star State’s legislature had been called into special session by Republican governor Greg Abbott, who set an agenda including critical race theory, trans youth sports, border security, and social media censorship among other flashpoint right-wing issues. But, according to the Tribune, the special session’s purpose was “largely” an effort to institute new voting restrictions.

The proposed new restrictions from the GOP, the Tribune reported, include bans on drive-through voting, 24-hour voting, and distributing unsolicited mail-in ballot applications, plus new ID requirements for mail-in voting, enhanced protections for partisan poll watchers, and monthly reviews of thecitizenship checks of everyone registered in the voter rolls for citizenship. Taken altogether, the GOP proposals could seriously impact voting in places like Houston, a densely populated and racially diverse part of the state, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

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To stop the bill from passing in a Republican-controlled legislature, Texas Democrats decided to deny their GOP colleagues a quorum, the bare minimum number of people present necessary to conduct official business under existing rules.

“Today, Texas House Democrats stand united in our decision to break quorum and refuse to let the Republican-led legislature force through dangerous legislation that would trample on Texans’ freedom to vote,” Democratic leaders said Monday in a joint statement. “We are now taking the fight to our nation’s Capitol. We are living on borrowed time in Texas. We need Congress to act now to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act to protect Texans — and all Americans — from the Trump Republicans’ nationwide war on democracy.”

The Texas GOP has been mulling how to handle the Democrats’ flight. According to the Tribune, they could sic law enforcement on the Dems, but Texas law doesn’t have jurisdiction in D.C., so they’d technically need to wait for them to return to Texas. Governor Abbott has pledged to arrest the Democrats when they return to Texas, telling KVUE he’ll call as many special sessions as necessary “all the way up to the election next year,” when Abbott will face re-election himself, including a potentially contentious GOP primary.

In the meantime, Texas Dems rallied in D.C. last night, announcing they would not return before the end of this special session and would attempt to pressure the U.S. Congress to take action on voter protection legislation before August. Representative Trey Martinez Fischer told CNN they’re currently scheduling meetings with members of Congress.

The debate over voter suppression in Texas comes as the state is at a pivotal moment in its history. Even if they’ve lacked a major breakthrough victory on the national stage, Democratic efforts to win in Texas have gained steam in recent years, highlighted by Beto O’Rourke’s narrow loss to Ted Cruz in the 2018 midterms. Some believe a population boom and changing demographics could turn the state purple, or even blue, in coming years — underscoring the importance of protecting the right to vote, especially as there are concerns about Texas Republicans’ ability to gerrymander the state ahead of the 2022 elections.

Want more from Teen Vogue? Check this out: Young Voters in California and Texas Share Their Struggles From Trying to Vote on Super Tuesday

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