One of the most controversial bills during this Legislature has been Republican priority SB 7, also known as Voter Suppression bill, aimed to modify almost every aspect of the early voting process.
SB 7 changes early voting rules as it would end 24-hour voting, restrict both in-mail and drive-thru voting and it would also impact minorities by shifting voting locations far from their usual voting areas.
Despite the nonexistent evidence of fraud, the Texas GOP has named the bill “Election Integrity” and has fought with a Republican majority to limit the scope of early voting.
With the backing of the governor and a Republican majority in both chambers, the bill was set to pass by its midnight deadline. However, an hour before the bill’s approval on Sunday night, Democrats coordinated a joint walkout, a move that left the chamber without the required quorum to pass legislation.
“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.
The impossibility to pass SB 7, a required presence of two-thirds of the 150 House members, sparked Republican outrage who took their concerns to Twitter.
“Today, on the second to last day of session, a number of members have chosen to disrupt the legislative process by abandoning the legislative chamber before our work was done,” Phelan said in a statement. “In doing so, these members killed a number of strong, consequential bills with broad bipartisan support.” Tweeted House Speaker, Dade Phelan.
Phelan had to adjourn the session until Monday morning, acknowledging the absence of quorum. Governor Greg Abbot and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick also joined Phelan’s claims.
“Election Integrity & Bail Reform were emergency items for this legislative session. They STILL must pass. They will be added to the special session agenda,” he said in a post on Twitter. “Legislators will be expected to have worked out the details when they arrive at the Capitol for the special session.” Tweeted Abbot.
“I support @GregAbbott_Tx call for a Special Session for #SB7, #SB10, #SB12, #SB21 & #SB29 and #SB1311 and other key legislation. The Texas Senate passed all these priority bills months ago and we will again. The TxHouse failed the people of Texas tonight. No excuse. #txlege” Patrick tweeted.
Former State Senator Huffines, who is set to run against Abbott in the upcoming election, tweeted some harsh words aimed at the governor.
As reported by the Texas Tribune, SB 7 was negotiated behind closed doors over the last week after the House and Senate passed significantly different versions of the legislation and pulled from each chamber’s version of the bill.
Last-minute additions included voting rule changes that weren’t part of previous debates on the bill, such as new ID requirements for voting-by-mail, restrictions on Sunday early voting hours, and a higher threshold for who can qualify to vote by mail based on a disability.
Following the walk-out, the Texas House Democratic Caucus issued a joint statement.“The 67 members of the House Democratic Caucus have been fighting SB7 — the Republican anti-voter legislation — all year long. Tonight, we finished that fight, “we had no choice but to take extraordinary measures to protect our constituents and their right to vote. Republicans have only themselves to blame for the way this Session is ending.” Chair of the Texas House Democratic Caucus Chris Turner stated.