AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas Republicans advanced bills Sunday that would make voting harder in a state that already has some of the nation’s toughest restrictions after hundreds spoke against the proposals — with some waiting to speak for almost 24 hours.
Republicans made clear they intended to advance a new election bill — which would prohibit 24-hour polling places, ban drop boxes and stop drive-thru voting — this weekend, with a first major vote on the proposals expected this week. That timeline is pushing some Democratic lawmakers toward calling for a second walkout to again stop the restrictions from moving forward like they did in May when they broke quorum.
Texas is among several states with GOP-controlled statehouses where Republicans have rushed to enact strict voting laws in response to former President Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him. A second walkout by Texas Democrats — which some are describing as their best, if not only option — would mark a high-stakes escalation of their efforts to deny Republicans a major priority, and in turn, put more pressure on President Biden to act on voting at the federal level.
For weeks, Democratic leaders in the Texas House have said they are not ruling out another revolt, but have also expressed hope of weakening the bill during the 30-day special session.
Another walkout may merely buy more time: Gov. Greg Abbott could keep calling more 30-day special sessions until voting measures are passed. Paychecks for nearly 2,000 Capitol staffers could also be on the line, because Abbott vetoed funding for the legislative branch following Democrats’ late-night walkout. He has signaled he will restore that funding this summer — if lawmakers are around to put a bill on his desk.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, the elected head of the governing body for the county where Houston is located, said Abbott was “extorting” lawmakers to get the legislation passed.
Nacal Tate, who volunteers with the NAACP chapter in Collin County in the Dallas area, said she testified against the proposed voting restrictions. Some of the provisions, if they become law, would affect senior citizens, like herself.
The versions of the revived voting changes passed Sunday by a House panel and by a Senate committee later that afternoon no longer include two of the most contentious provisions: prohibiting Sunday morning voting, when many Black churchgoers go to the polls, and language that would have made it easier for a judge to overturn elections.