Texas: Republicans Are Laying The Groundwork For Endless Election “Audits” That Go Long Past Trump | Sarah Mimms/BuzzFeed
Republicans are laying the groundwork for candidates to follow former president Donald Trump’s election-denying playbook, creating the potential for vote “audits” up and down the ballot for years to come. Of most concern to election experts and voting rights advocates is Texas’s SB 47, a bill Republicans are currently fast-tracking through the state legislature. It would allow any candidate or party chair to force multiple inquiries into anything they view as an election “irregularity.” These inquiries would not require any burden of proof and could be pursued for potentially years after an election is over, all at the expense of taxpayers. Roughly one-third of Americans believe Trump’s continued lies about widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election. Now add in the potential for similar claims from dozens of losing candidates in every single primary and general election race — not to mention county and state party chairs and committees supporting ballot measures, all of whom can also force a look into a past election — and you have the nightmare outcome of a bill like Texas’s SB 47. “It was the single most concerning bill I have seen all legislative session,” Sarah Walker, executive director for the national, nonpartisan election integrity group Secure Democracy, said this week. The bill, which passed the state Senate Tuesday, still needs a vote in the House, but it is getting an aggressive PR campaign from Trump, in part because it also includes an audit of the 2020 election. Trump has spent weeks putting intense pressure on Gov. Greg Abbott, who is up for reelection next year, to do a “strong and real” audit (and rejecting the post-election audit the state is already doing in response to his complaints as “weak”) despite winning the state by 6 points. Abbott’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Texas: Harris County leaders call state election audit a ‘sham’ and an assault on democracy to appease Trump | Zach Despart/Houston Chronicle
Harris County leaders on Friday blasted the Texas secretary of state’s decision to conduct a comprehensive “forensic audit” of the 2020 election in four counties, including Harris, as a political ploy to appease conspiracy theorists and former President Donald Trump. County Judge Lina Hidalgo accused Gov. Greg Abbott of trying to curry favor with the former president, who on Thursday called for an audit of the Texas results, despite comfortably carrying the state in his unsuccessful bid for re-election. She likened the effort to audits in Arizona and Pennsylvania, which have failed to find major errors in vote tallying. There is no evidence of widespread fraud or irregularities in Harris County’s 2020 election, where a record 1.7 million voters participated. “This does not deserve to be treated as a serious matter or serious audit,” Hidalgo said. “It is an irresponsible political trick. It is a sham. It is a cavalier and dangerous assault on voters and democracy.”
Texas elections law carries costs and threat of litigation for all 254 counties | Allie Morris/Dallas Morning News
In Tom Green County last election, the line of people waiting to cast a ballot from their vehicle sometimes wrapped around the block. The farming and ranching hub in West Texas was one of a handful of places to roll out drive-through voting in the pandemic, drawing enthusiastic support from locals. “It just happened to benefit some people who had kids with them or people who couldn’t stand for a long time,” said elections administrator Vona Hudson. “I can’t tell you how many people appreciated it and called and thanked us.” Tom Green County couldn’t be more different than Harris, the large, liberal county whose novel voting initiatives triggered a months-long legislative fight over voting rights. Yet now, both must account for the new GOP-backed elections law that will have sweeping effects for all 254 counties. The law bars counties from offering drive-through and 24-hour voting, like Houston’s Harris County did. Other, less high-profile provisions could cost taxpayers thousands, if not millions, of dollars. Not only must counties buy new equipment and come up with new election forms, they are now open to potentially costly lawsuits and fines, election officials said.
Texas Republican legislators coming off a successful effort to overhaul the state’s election procedures are preparing new legislation that would dramatically expand the rights of candidates and political party bosses to force mandatory audits of future elections. The legislation, introduced by a former elections official who now serves in the state Senate, would allow those with a direct stake in election outcomes to formally seek answers from county clerks about potential irregularities in reported results and to elevate concerns to the Texas secretary of state. Those who could raise potential objections to election results include a candidate, the chair of a county or state political party, the presiding county judge — effectively a county’s top executive — or the proponents or opponents of a ballot measure campaign. The secretary of state would be allowed to order a review and potentially an audit. The legislation is written to grandfather in complaints about the 2020 presidential election, giving new life to former President Trump’s unfounded claims of widespread irregularities that have not been proven.
Texas Fight Over Voting Rights Nears End as Democrats Return 7 J. David Goodman and David Montgomery/The New York Times
A 38-day walkout by Democrats in the Texas House of Representatives effectively ended on Thursday as three previously absent members arrived in the Capitol, clearing the way for Republicans to establish a quorum and pass restrictive voting rules. Despite efforts by Democrats to maintain a solid block even as most returned from Washington this month, the three representatives from Houston decided to return together, an apparent effort to deflect any criticism from their colleagues or liberal activists. The House adjourned until 4 p.m. Monday without any votes, but hearings were expected to take place over the weekend. The passage of sweeping voting restrictions — to undo last year’s expansion of ballot access during the coronavirus pandemic in places like Houston and empower partisan poll watchers — appeared quite likely in the coming days. “We took the fight for voting rights to Washington, D.C.,” the three Democratic legislators, Garnet Coleman, Ana Hernandez and Armando Walle, said in a joint statement, adding, “Now we continue the fight on the House floor.” The three arrived in the Capitol as a group, with Mr. Walle pushing Mr. Coleman, who has severe diabetes and underwent a lower leg amputation this spring, in a wheelchair. “It is time to move past these partisan legislative calls and to come together to help our state mitigate the effects of the current Covid-19 surge,” they said in their statement.
Texas audit proposed by GOP would miss minor but real errors | Nicholas Riccardi and Paul Weber/Associated Press
A group of Texas Republicans wants to audit the 2020 election results in just the large, mostly Democratic counties across the state. If they get their way, they’ll miss many of the real — but minor — errors in the state’s vote count. That’s according to a team of researchers that conducted a statewide analysis of the results across both Democratic and Republican counties. The group found a series of errors that would not come close to changing Republican Donald Trump’s victory in the state or any other statewide race. But the errors stretch across both Republican and Democratic counties. The research adds to a pile of evidence that contradicts the belief, widespread among Republicans, that elections in Democratic areas are rife with errors, irregularities and mismanagement. While errors in the tally do occur, research shows they tend to be random and small scale and do not benefit one party or the other. In Texas, the mistakes, detected by election researchers from the University of Florida, were scattered across 37 of Texas’ 254 counties. They added or subtracted a handful of votes from various candidates with no skew toward one party or the other. Trump apparently received 223 more votes than the 5,890,347 that the Texas secretary of state lists as the Republican’s total. Democrat Joe Biden appears to have received 155 more votes than his listed 5,259,126, according to the research. Minor mistakes like the Texas ones are relatively common, say election experts. In Texas, the errors are likely due to the state’s use of an older computer system that requires counties to enter their tallies by hand, increasing the risk of errors when the wrong digit is typed.
Texas: In one quote, the core of the effort to undermine the 2020 election is revealed | Philip Bump/The Washington Post
[W]hile Toth said he would support a statewide effort, he also argued the undertaking would be too expensive and time-consuming. Asked if he would consider including some smaller counties, Toth replied, “What’s the point? I mean, all the small counties are red.”
And that, right there, is the crux of the issue. No one in the United States has done more to undermine confidence in elections than Trump. But he didn’t invent the idea. That there is rampant fraudulent voting in the country attributable to Democratic criminals is a long-standing assumption on the right. Trump internalized and leveraged this line of rhetoric because it offered him a convenient defense against twice losing the presidential popular vote. It wasn’t that American voters preferred Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, it was that Democrats cheated, to the tune of 3 million and 7 million votes, respectively.
Texas Democrats face hurdles as they hope Congress passes voting bill | Abby Livingston/The Texas Tribune
Texas Democrats slipped out of the state 10 days ago because they were out of options back home, powerless to stop the Republican majority in the Legislature from passing its priority voting bill. With Gov. Greg Abbott committing to call more special sessions until the legislation is passed, Democrats have said they’re pinning their hopes on Congress to take action to block the attempts to restrict voting access. Now in their second week hunkered down in the nation’s capital, the Democrats’ primetime TV interviews are slowing down and their meetings with members of Congress are spacing out. They are getting a crash course in Washington dysfunction and confronting the reality that their issues are not immune to legislative paralysis. “We are astute about Texas politics and the way Texas government works, but it’s been a learning curve to understand how things work in Washington,” said Democratic state Rep. Gina Hinojosa of Austin. The options ahead are fairly grim. “To state the obvious, Senate action on an elections bill would require some sort of waiver of the filibuster rule,” wrote Rich Cohen, the chief author of the Almanac of American Politics and a longtime congressional observer, in an email. “In itself, that likely will take additional time. With the Senate seemingly focused on infrastructure legislation for at least the next couple of weeks — and even with the prospect of some legislative work days in August—it’s hard to see that Democrats would come together on limiting the filibuster without pursuing extended internal discussions.” Last month, Republicans blocked the For the People Act, a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s elections, in the Democrat-controlled Senate thanks to a Republican filibuster.
Texas Republican lawmaker proposes forensic audit of 2020 election, but only in big counties that mostly backed Biden | Eva Ruth Moravec/The Washington Post
Support is growing among Texas Republicans for a push to audit the results of the 2020 election in a state that former president Donald Trump won handily. But the proposal, introduced in the House earlier this month, would only re-examine votes in Texas’s largest counties, most of which went for President Biden. The legislation, House Bill 241, calls for an independent third party appointed by the state’s top GOP officials to conduct a forensic audit of results in counties with more than 415,000 people. Of the 13 counties that meet that criteria, 10 voted for Biden last year. The bill’s sponsor, Republican state Rep. Steve Toth, said earlier this week that his constituents are concerned about fraud in the election. In an interview, Toth added that he also became convinced an audit was needed after a meeting earlier this year with U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.), who claimed to have evidence of vote fraud in a 2018 race that he lost. “No amount of fraud should be acceptable in our election system,” Toth said. “I think it’s important that we get to the bottom of this and make sure that people start to believe in their voting system.” But Democrats and some election officials say there is no need for an audit, pointing out that Republicans have not demonstrated any evidence of widespread fraud in the state. “We’re chasing ghosts. It has been proven, time and again, that there was no major election fraud. P.S.: Trump won Texas,” said Lorena Perez McGill, a Democrat who lost to Toth in the November election. “So I don’t understand what he seeks to accomplish with this.” For now, the bill is stalled as House Democrats continue to wait out a 30-day special session in Washington, D.C., denying Republicans a quorum to continue. But the effort is the latest attempt by state lawmakers across the country clamoring for audits following Trump’s false claims of mass voting fraud after his loss.
In Texas, Efforts To Make Voting Harder Has Some Worried In Harris County | Andrew Schneider/Houston Public Media
Texas already has some of the strictest voting laws in the country, and the state’s Republicans are trying to make them even tougher. Most of the state’s Democratic lawmakers have flown to Washington, D.C., to prevent a vote on legislation they call voter suppression. The center of the battle is Harris County, where Houston is located. The county is home to more than 4.7 million people, a larger population than the state of Louisiana. Last year, Harris County introduced an array of voting innovations to make it easier and safer to vote during the presidential elections. They included drive-thru voting, expanded voting hours – with one day of 24-hour voting – and sending out mail-in ballot applications to all eligible voters. Joy Davis is a stay-at-home mom and the mother of a young son with severe autism. She voted in a drive-thru location on the east side of Houston. “Oh, it was amazing,” Davis says. “It was so convenient. I felt safe, because it was at the highlight of the pandemic before I was able to get any vaccinations….When I arrived, it was just so simple, so easy, so effortless. We just pulled up, showed my ID, they directed us to a tent, and you know we met with the poll worker there, they gave us the machine so we could cast our ballot, and that was it. I cast my ballot.”
Texas Democrats may find themselves in the wilderness of wandering public attention | Ross Ramsey/The Texas Tribune
The spotlight won’t shine for long on the story of Texas’ flyaway Democrats. The novelty will wear off. The cable TV networks will have other top stories before you know it, and this will become another of those insider fights of only passing interest to Texans who don’t have regular business in the state Capitol. Voting rights are important to voters, but most people only pay attention to the particulars at election time. Where do I go? What do I have to do? Who and what is on the ballot? Who are all of these people, and which ones are in my way and which ones can I ignore? But the next big elections in Texas aren’t until March at the earliest — and those, the party primaries, could easily be delayed until May or later because of delays in the 2020 U.S. census, and the resulting delays in drawing new political maps to fit new details of where Texans live and how many of them live there. For now, it’s enough to know that the state government in Texas is dysfunctional, but not in a way that has any immediate effect on the lives of everyday Texans. That’s a particular problem for the wandering Democrats whose political play depends, to some extent, on public attention. They decamped on Monday, faced with the prospect of showing up to watch Republicans approve a bill with new restrictions on voting that they cannot abide.
Texas: Behind the partisan drama lies a profoundly serious struggle over who gets shut out under voting laws | Alexa Ura/The Texas Tribune
The dramatic exodus of Democratic Texas lawmakers to block a Republican voting bill has choked the political airways in a haze of confusion, posturing and finger-pointing. But beneath the smoke, a fire rages. Many Democrats, especially those who are people of color, are incensed, seeing the latest Republican voting bill as another moment of crisis in a state they believe has long marginalized people like them in the halls of power. Many Republicans, passions stoked by unsubstantiated claims of widespread voting fraud, see their hold on political power slipping away, and are clamoring for a firewall. The struggle over voting rights in Texas goes beyond the legislative theatrics of the moment. It is fundamentally a clash not just of elected officials, but of the two constituencies they represent. It is a fight over whose voices will be heard that began long before the Democrats shut down the Texas Legislature, and the stakes are not trivial. The two days preceding the Democratic flight offered a microcosm of the standoff. As a House committee fast-tracked the GOP’s voting bill over the weekend, hundreds of Texans descended on Austin to plead their cases against it. They were left milling in the Capitol’s basement corridors for more than 17 hours, waiting for their allotted three minutes to address the House’s committee on constitutional rights and remedies created specifically to consider the special session agenda.
Texas Democrats will stay out of Texas until Aug. 6 to block voting bill | Abby Livingston and Alexa Ura/The Texas Tribune
Shortly after landing in Washington D.C. in an effort to deny the Texas House a quorum to block a voting restrictions bill, House Democrats indicated they plan to remain out of state until the end of the special legislative session that ends Aug. 6. Democrats’ Monday departure from the state upends the Legislature’s ability to turn any bills into law just days into a 30-day session that was called largely to advance GOP-backed legislation that would enact new restrictions on voting. Asked by a reporter what the caucus planned to do if Gov. Greg Abbott called another special session for the next day, state Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, suggested that was the reason behind why they had decamped to the capital. “That’s our message to Congress,” said Turner, the Fort Worth Democrat who chairs the House Democratic caucus. “We need them to act now.” At least 51 of the 67 Democratic members of the Texas House — the number needed to break quorum — fled the state on Monday, most of them boarding two chartered planes that landed in D.C. around 7 p.m. Central time. Last month, a delegation of Democratic state representatives and senators traveled to the U.S. Capital to advocate for a pair of federal bills. The first would preempt significant portions of the Texas bills and set new federal standards for elections like same-day and automatic voter registration. The second would restore sweeping safeguards for voters of color by reinstating federal oversight of elections in states like Texas with troubling records of discriminating against voters of color. This time the group was much larger — at least two buses full of members as of Tuesday night — and state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, referred to the expanded numbers as “reinforcements.”
Texas GOP begins hurried second try at thwarted voting laws | Paul J. Weber and Acacia Coronado/Associated Press
Republican Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday began a hurried second attempt to toughen election laws in Texas, weeks after Democrats’ dramatic walkout from the state Capitol thwarted one of America’s most restrictive voting measures. He demanded no specific voting changes to reach his desk this summer, but Republicans who fumbled their first try at passing a sweeping overhaul of Texas elections at the last minute in May are already promising to work fast, saying hearings will start this weekend. The haste reflects the usual time crunch of a normal special legislative session in Texas — which last just 30 days — but also the GOP’s eagerness to put behind them a rare and highly public defeat in America’s biggest red state over what has been a priority for the party since the November elections. Abbott, who is up for reelection in 2022, has already shifted his focus toward picking up Donald Trump’s mantle on immigration since the May walkout. Republicans are also backing away from the two most contentious issues that fueled Democrats’ dramatic quorum break just before a midnight deadline over the Memorial Day weekend. Still, Republicans are expecting many of the sunken bill’s provisions to return once the special session begins Thursday. “The Senate and the House are both eager to work on this issue and get it done,” said Republican state Rep. Jacey Jetton, who helped negotiate the final version of the sweeping elections bill that Democrats blocked.
Texans with disabilities fear voting obstacles under proposed GOP restrictions | Alexa Ura/The Texas Tribune
It took Nancy Crowther three hours, four public bus rides and an impressive amount of gumption to make sure her vote counted in the 2020 election. She’s hoping Texas lawmakers don’t make it even harder the next time. With Texas Republicans determined to enact additional voting restrictions in the upcoming special legislative session, much of the uproar has focused on changes that could make it harder for people of color to cast ballots. Less attention has fallen on another group of voters bracing for what could happen to them under the GOP’s renewed push to further tighten the state’s voting procedures — people with disabilities, for whom the voting process is already lined with potential obstacles. Among them are people like Crowther, a 64-year-old retiree, who could have been shut out from voting last November had it not been for her own tenacious determination. Immunocompromised because of a neuromuscular disease, Crowther chose to forgo her usual trip to a nearby polling place and instead turned to mail-in voting in hopes of safeguarding her health during the pandemic. But as Election Day neared — and after experiencing interruptions in her mail service — she began to worry her ballot wouldn’t make it back to the county in time.
Senate Bill 598 was signed into law two weeks ago and will require voting machines in the state to have an auditable paper voting system, including the systems available for voting in Young County. SB 598 was approved during the 87th Legislative Session following approval from the Texas Senate in April and Texas House of Representatives in May. The bill was sent to the office of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott June 1, and was signed into law June 14. According to SB 598, no later than 24 hours after all ballots have been counted in an election, the election records custodian will conduct a risk-limiting audit for a selected statewide race or election measure. The Texas Secretary of State will select the precincts to be counted and the office or proposition to be counted. Hart InterCivic will be at the Young County Courthouse Tuesday, July 27, to demonstrate the new technology and software which will be implemented with SB 598, and the office of Young County Elections is inviting the public and poll workers to the event. The company will be presenting at the Young County Courtroom on the first floor from 1-2 p.m.
Texas Gov. Abbott calls special session, setting stage for GOP to revive voting restrictions | Jane C. Timm/NBC
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is calling lawmakers back to Austin on July 8 for a special legislative session, where a controversial election legislation Democrats have decried as voter suppression is expected to be back on the agenda. Democrats blocked a sweeping election bill in the final hours of the legislative session last month by staging a rare walkout and breaking quorum. Abbott, who had told lawmakers the legislation was one of his top priorities, responded furiously and vowed to force lawmakers back to Austin for a special session. The governor’s office did not confirm that the July 8 session would include election legislation, but Abbott had previously said he planned to call two special sessions: one focused on elections and bail reform, followed by a second session in September or October focused on redistricting and allocating federal coronavirus funds throughout the state.
Texas Democrats Are Pressing Their Congressional Counterparts To Expand Voting Rights | Susan Davis/NPR
A group of Democratic Texas state lawmakers traveled to Washington, D.C., this week to meet with congressional Democrats and Vice President Harris as part of a broader effort to pressure those in their party to pass far-reaching voting rights and election reform legislation. The Texas lawmakers met Tuesday with staff of Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., a key opponent of the bill, called the For the People Act. Manchin himself did not attend. “I think they heard us,” Texas state Rep. Jasmine Crockett told reporters, referring to Manchin’s staff. Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer called it an “extremely productive visit.” The Texas legislators also had a private meeting with a group of Senate Democrats. “They must have gotten five or six standing ovations,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on Tuesday. “We were really taken by their courage, their bravery and, most importantly, their mission.”
Texas State bar investigating Attorney General Ken Paxton over Trump election lawsuit | Jake Bleiberg/Associated Press
The Texas bar association is investigating whether state Attorney General Ken Paxton’s failed efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election based on bogus claims of fraud amounted to professional misconduct. The State Bar of Texas initially declined to take up a Democratic Party activist’s complaint that Paxton’s petitioning of the U.S. Supreme Court to block Joe Biden’s victory was frivolous and unethical. But a tribunal that oversees grievances against lawyers overturned that decision late last month and ordered the bar to look into the accusations against the Republican official. The investigation is yet another liability for the embattled attorney general, who is facing a years-old criminal case, a separate, newer FBI investigation, and a Republican primary opponent who is seeking to make electoral hay of the various controversies. It also makes Paxton one of the highest profile lawyers to face professional blowback over their roles in Donald Trump’s effort to delegitimize his defeat. A spokesman for the attorney general’s office did not respond to requests for comment. Paxton’s defense lawyer, Philip Hilder, declined to comment. Kevin Moran, the 71-year-old president of the Galveston Island Democrats, shared his complaint with The Associated Press along with letters from the State Bar of Texas and the Board of Disciplinary Appeals that confirm the investigation. He said Paxton’s efforts to dismiss other states’ election results was a wasteful embarrassment for which the attorney general should lose his law license. “He wanted to disenfranchise the voters in four other states,” said Moran. “It’s just crazy.” Texas’ top appeals lawyer, who would usually argue the state’s cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, notably did not join Paxton in bringing the election suit. The high court threw it out.
Texas Attorney General Says Trump Would’ve ‘Lost’ State If It Hadn’t Blocked Mail-in Ballots Applications Being Sent Out | Jason Lemon/Newsweek
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, said former President Donald Trump would have lost in Texas in the 2020 election if his office had not successfully blocked counties from mailing out applications for mail-in ballots to all registered voters. Harris County, home to the city of Houston, wanted to mail out applications for mail-in ballots to its approximately 2.4 million registered voters due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the conservative Texas Supreme Court blocked the county from doing so after it faced litigation from Paxton’s office. “If we’d lost Harris County—Trump won by 620,000 votes in Texas. Harris County mail-in ballots that they wanted to send out were 2.5 million, those were all illegal and we were able to stop every one of them,” Paxton told former Trump adviser Steve Bannon during the latter’s War Room podcast on Friday. “Had we not done that, we would have been in the very same situation—we would’ve been on Election Day, I was watching on election night and I knew, when I saw what was happening in these other states, that that would’ve been Texas. We would’ve been in the same boat. We would’ve been one of those battleground states that they were counting votes in Harris County for three days and Donald Trump would’ve lost the election,” the Republican official said.
Texas: ‘Die fighting on my feet.’ How Democrats executed a mass walkout that killed the elections bill | Lauren McGaughy/Dallas Morning News
Atop every member’s desk in the Texas House of Representatives sits a small round voting machine. In a slot at the edge of the shiny metal pad fits a key. This key usually stays in the unlocked position, allowing representatives to vote from their seats. When a member is absent, or doesn’t want a deskmate or colleague voting for them, the key is turned, locking the machine. When lawmakers want to be extra sure no votes are cast when they’re gone, they take the key. Late Sunday night, with just a few hours left to pass bills in the 2021 regular legislative session, Rep. Travis Clardy walked to the podium in front of the speaker’s dais and began debate on a controversial elections bill that had torn the chamber in two. Republicans like Clardy wanted to deliver a win for their party and Gov. Greg Abbott, who had called on them to pass a voting bill after the 2020 elections. Democrats said the bill was an overt attempt to discourage voters from going to the polls through scare tactics and new restrictions. Clardy knew the debate wouldn’t be pretty. Earlier discussions on the bill had devolved into ugly partisan slugfests. But as the minority party, Democrats had few options to kill it outright before a key deadline at midnight. Clardy thought, “We ought to be able to get this done.” After ending his opening remarks, Clardy handed the mic over to Rep. Briscoe Cain, the bill’s author, and dipped out of the chamber for some cold pork chops and mashed potatoes.
The sweeping overhaul of Texas elections and voter access was poised from the beginning of the session to pass into law. It had the backing of Republican leaders in both chambers of the Legislature. It had support from the governor. Democrats who opposed the bill, chiding it as a naked attempt of voter suppression, were simply outnumbered. But on Sunday night, with an hour left for the Legislature to give final approval to the bill, Democrats staged a walkout, preventing a vote on the legislation before a fatal deadline. “Leave the chamber discreetly. Do not go to the gallery. Leave the building,” Grand Prairie state Rep. Chris Turner, the chair of the House Democratic Caucus, said in a text message to other Democrats obtained by The Texas Tribune. Senate Bill 7, a Republican priority bill, is an expansive piece of legislation that would alter nearly the entire voting process. It would create new limitations to early voting hours, ratchet up voting-by-mail restrictions and curb local voting options like drive-thru voting. Democrats had argued the bill would make it harder for people of color to vote in Texas. Republicans called the bill an “election integrity” measure — necessary to safeguard Texas elections from fraudulent votes, even though there is virtually no evidence of widespread fraud.
How the Texas voting bill would have created hurdles for voters of color | Amy Gardner/The Washington Post
Texas Democrats late Sunday headed off passage — at least for now — of one of the most restrictive voting bills in the country, a 67-page measure with a slew of provisions that would have made it harder to cast ballots by mail, given new access to partisan poll watchers and imposed stiff new civil and criminal penalties on election administrators, voters and those who seek to assist them. While Senate Bill 7 would have had wide-ranging effects on voters across the state, it included specific language that critics say would disproportionately affect people of color — particularly those who live in under-resourced and urban communities. House Democrats blocked the bill by walking out of their chamber Sunday night, but Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has said he plans to add the bill to a special session he plans to call later this year. Republican backers of the measure have denied that it is aimed at disenfranchising voters of color. During debate in the House earlier this month, state Rep. Briscoe Cain dubbed it a voting “enhancement” bill, insisting that it was designed to protect “all voters.” The legislation was pushed through in the final hours of the Texas legislative session by Republicans who argued it is necessary to reassure voters their elections are secure, a response to former president Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 White House race was corrupted by fraud. But by all accounts, the 2020 election ran smoothly — and no evidence has emerged of fraud or other irregularities in sizable enough quantities to alter an outcome in Texas or other states.