December 7, 2023

Flanked by Texas State House Democrats, U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey (D-TX) (C) speaks as Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) (R) and Texas State Rep. Chris Turner (D-District 101) (L), Chairman of the Texas House Democratic Caucus, listen during a press conference on voting rights outside of the U.S. Capitol on July 13, 2021 in Washington, DC.

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The Texas Senate passed Republican-led electoral law Tuesday night after dozen of House Democrats fled the state to avoid a vote on the measure.

In an 18-4 party election, Senate Republicans voted to approve the controversial bill, which Democrats and supporters of electoral rights say will suppress the votes of people of color and people with disabilities.

“This bill was just the latest and latest attack by the Trump Republicans on democracy across Texas and our nation,” said Rep. Ron Reynolds, one of the escaped Democrats, at a press conference on Wednesday.

Up to 58 Texas Democrats moved to Washington, DC Monday and Tuesday to deny Republicans the quorum required to conduct business in the Chamber. However, the Senate still had a quorum on Tuesday with 22 of its 31 members in attendance, allowing this Chamber to vote and pass Senate Law 1.

Legislation will falter unless the Texas Democrats return to the state before GOP Governor Greg Abbott’s 30-day special session ends. Abbott has threatened to arrest state lawmakers upon their return, according to The Associated Press.

Texas is among several states trying to pass laws restricting voter access, due to repeated false claims by former President Donald Trump that the 2020 elections were stolen by widespread voter fraud.

The proposals in the bill passed on Tuesday include a ban on drive-through voting, restrictions on 24-hour voting options and new identification requirements for postal votes. The bill would also prohibit local officials from mailing absentee ballots to ineligible voters.

The Democrats argued that the bill proposed by the GOP Senators was an attack on voting rights designed to suppress voter turnout.

“The Republicans have broken their promise to our seniors and the disabled by making it harder to vote and also to make it difficult for Latinos and African Americans to vote,” said Senator Carol Alvarado, one of the escaped Democrats, at the press conference on Wednesday.

Republicans, however, claim that the law will secure the electoral process, calling it the “Texas Election Integrity Act.”

“This bill is both about making voting easier and making cheating harder,” said Senator Bryan Hughes, author of the bill, told the Texas Tribune Tuesday.

According to the Tribune, Hughes attributed the backlash to his bill to “a terrible, misleading, false national debate from Washington”.

Texas Freedom Caucus MP Mayes Middleton (R-TX) (C) speaks to the media at the Texas Capitol in Austin, Texas on July 13, 2021.

Montinique Monroe | Getty Images

The Texas Democrats said they fled to the country’s capital to pressure Congress to pass voting laws like the For The People Act, while Republican-led state parliaments across the country sought to change the voting rules.

“We are here to implore Congress to pass a comprehensive law on voting rights. We have heard from over 400 voters in Texas who have come to testify on the electoral law, “Rep. Vikki Goodwin, another Democrat who left the state, told the news conference Wednesday. “Your stories fell on deaf ears with Republicans. Please don’t let our requests fall on deaf ears here in Congress.”

Several of the state’s fled lawmakers have met with U.S. Senators on Capitol Hill to discuss voting rights, the Texas House Democrats said at the press conference.

Vice President Kamala Harris met with the Texas Democrats on Tuesday, and Senator Joe Manchin, DW.Va., is also expected to meet with them. Manchin didn’t respond on Tuesday when asked if he would support a Senate spin-off to pass a voting law. He has previously spoken out against changes to the filibuster.

President Joe Biden also gave a grand speech in Philadelphia on Tuesday denouncing his predecessor’s “big lie” about a stolen election. The President urged Congress to pass the For The People Act and restore parts of the Voting Rights Act.

More than 150 companies, including Amazon, Target and PepsiCo, also supported the update of the voting rights law in a new letter published on Wednesday.