Texas Democrats fled their state on private jets Monday in order to prevent a series of new, restrictive voting laws from making their way through the state legislature.
‘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,’ the Texas state house Democratic caucus said in a statement.
At least 58 Democratic lawmakers left Austin to fly to Washington D.C. on two private jets chartered for the occasion and will use the time in the nation’s Capitol to rally support for federal voting legislation.
‘We are now taking flight 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,’ they added.
Senate Republicans in Washington blocked Democrats nation-wide voting rights bill earlier this summer.
The Democrats’ departure paralyzed the Texas state house as the legislature requires a quorum of two-thirds of lawmakers be present to conduct business. It’s also akin to a move Democrats used in 2003 when they fled to neighboring Oklahoma to block Republicans‘ plan to redraw the state’s congressional districts.
The Democrats risk arrest and expect state Republicans to send law enforcement officials, possibly including the Texas rangers, after them.
To permanently block the two voting bills that Texas Republicans are pushing, the Democrats would have to stay away through the end of the special legislative session, which can last as many as 30 days.
Texas Democrats plan to flee their state on private jets in order to prevent a series of new, restrictive voting laws from becoming law
White House press secretary Jen Psaki called the new voting laws ‘the worst challenge to our democracy since the Civil War’
Texas Democrats already staged one successful walkout to defeat the election legislation prioritized by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott. They quietly left the state house floor in the final minutes of the regular legislative session that ended in May, breaking quorum and forcing Republicans to adjourn without passing the measure.
Abbott called the state legislature back for a special session to deal with the two measures he wants passed.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday it was ‘certainly’ possible that some administration officials would meet with the runaway Democrats.
She called the new voting laws ‘the worst challenge to our democracy since the Civil War.’
As of June 21, 17 states enacted 28 new laws that restrict access to the vote this year alone, according to the Brenner Center for Justice.
The Republican-led states passed the measures after Biden’s victory in the 2020 election after former President Donald Trump falsely claimed he won and was the victim of voter fraud.
President Joe Biden will travel to Philadelphia on Tuesday to talk about voting rights. Psaki hinted he may attack Trump.
‘He will redouble his commitment to using every tool at his disposal to continue to fight to protect the fundamental right of Americans to vote against the onslaught of voter suppression laws based on a dangerous and discredited conspiracy theory that culminated in assault on our Capitol,’ she said.
She then referred to the ‘big lie’ – a term Democrats have used to refer to the false election claims made by Trump and some other Republicans. The use is a strike at Trump, who calls Biden’s election victory ‘The Big Lie.’
‘He’ll call out the greatest irony of “the big lie” – that no election in our history has met such a high standard with over 80 judges, including those appointed by his predecessor, throwing out all challenges,’ Psaki said. ‘He’ll also decry efforts to strip the right to vote as authoritarian and anti American and stand up against the notion that politicians should be allowed to choose their voters.’
With Biden pushing the issue in Philadelphia, the birthplace of democracy, and Texas Democrats marching around Washington, the pressure will be on Republicans.
Republican Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas has pushed for the new voting bills
Texas is one of several states passing new voting laws after Joe Biden’s victory in 2020
Meanwhile, Vice President Kamala Harris, at a voting rights event in Detroit on Monday, praised the Texas Democrats for the work their ‘extraordinary courage and commitment’ for American voter rights.
‘I applaud them standing for the rights of all Americans, and all Texans to express their voice through their vote, unencumbered,’ she said.
‘I do believe that fighting for the right to vote is as American as apple pie,’ she noted.
The Texas Democrats are scheduled to arrive in Washington D.C. on early Monday evening.
The two Texas bills would add new identification requirements for mail voting, ban some early voting options and create new criminal penalties for breaking election code while empowering partisan poll watchers.
The measures would ban several election programs implemented last year to help people vote during the coronavirus pandemic, including drive-through voting and 24-hour and late-night voting.
Voting rights advocates noted that voters of color used these programs disproportionately.
TEXAS’ VOTING RIGHTS BILLS: WHAT’S IN THEM AND WHY THE DEMOCRATS THINK THEY ‘RESTRICT’ ELECTIONS
- The bills – House Bill 3 and Senate Bill 1 – were filed last week during a special legislative session called by Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
- Creates harsher criminal penalties for people who help voters at the polls or those planning to vote by mail.
- For example, you are required to fill out paperwork if you are taking someone who is not a relative to vote in person.
- Would require someone to exit their car during curbside voting.
- They strengthen identity requirements for people voting by mail.
- Would stop local election officials from sending out mail-in ballots to those who haven’t requested them.
- Drive-in voting would be banned.
- There would be restrictions on extended hours during early voting.
- Expands what partisan poll watchers can observe during counts.
- Prohibits poll watchers from being removed for violating election laws.
- Protects the legitimacy of elections.
Democrats argue that:
- These new measures would mainly stop minority communities and shift workers from voting.
- Makes it harder to control disruptive partisan poll watchers.
- Would make it easier for losing candidates to try and overturn election results and harass winning candidates with court battles.
- Claim the provisions do nothing to make elections more secure in Texas.
- Insists it will further the claims of election fraud Donald Trump has made in the aftermath of the 2020 election.