Texas House of Representatives Democrats left the US state last week in an attempt to block a vote on changes to electoral law in the Republican-controlled House. Representatives will be subject to arrest under House rules when they return to Texas.
The group of at least 51 of Texas’s 67 Democratic representatives left Austin on July 12, mostly on two charter flights, to the US capital, Washington, in a move to prevent the House from reaching the necessary quorum. for the vote. Deputies pledged to remain out of state until the end of the legislature’s session in August. Nine Democratic senators also left the state, but the Texan Senate still had enough lawmakers, including four Democrats, to drive the vote.
The quorum required for voting is two-thirds of the House, which has 150 seats, meaning 100 representatives must be present. With the absence of at least 51 Democratic deputies, the session cannot be held. In the Senate, 21 of the 31 legislators must attend sessions.
The legislature’s special session closes on August 6th. In addition to voting on changes in the electoral process, the assessment of proposed legislation on topics relevant to the state’s conservatives, such as abortion, critical race theory, combating the “censorship” of social networks and the restriction of transgender athletes in competitions were also expected. schoolchildren.
risk of arrest
Texas Governor Greg Abbott has promised lawmakers will face reprimands when they return to the state. “Once they step back into the state, they will be arrested and taken to the Capitol and then we will conduct business,” the Republican governor told Fox News. However, law professors told the american press that the governor does not have the authority to arrest the representatives, but that the Democrats may be forced to return to Capitol Hill to fulfill their duties.
The day after the Democrats’ “escape”, the House voted to issue arrest warrants to compel deputies to return to Texas. However, Democrats remain in Washington.
what would be voted
The bill includes restrictions on voting by mail and prohibits 24-hour and drive-through voting, as well as limiting the collection of ballots by third parties, including new requirements for identifying voters who vote by mail, and increasing penalties for election officials who break the regulations. Similar restrictions on the electoral process have recently been passed in other US states and are seen as detrimental to Democratic campaigns in the country.
“Today, Texas House Democrats are united in our decision to break the quorum and refuse to allow the Republican-led legislature to enact dangerous legislation that undermines Texans’ freedom to vote,” Democratic leaders said in a joint statement released last week.
Democrats chose to go to Washington because election reforms similar to those being discussed in Texas are also being debated at the federal level, and they hope to draw national attention to opposition to those reforms.
While in the US capital, Texan Democrats are pressing US senators to pass laws that will make it harder for states to limit voting access.
This is the second time this year that Democrats have left the Texas House to block a vote. In May, Democratic lawmakers left the House hours before the end of a session, although on that occasion they traveled a shorter distance, going only to one church in Austin.
Among the nearly 60 Texas Democrats who left the state for Washington, six tested positive for Covid-19 in recent days.
“Despite following the CDC’s recommendations [Centro para Controle e Prevenção de Doenças dos EUA] and being fully vaccinated, I tested positive for Covid-19 on Monday,” Congresswoman Donna Howard said in a statement on Tuesday (20), adding that she had no symptoms of the infection.
Over the weekend, another five members of the Texas House of Representatives Democratic caucus were diagnosed with coronavirus. In recent days, lawmakers have met with US Vice President Kamala Harris and other lawmakers in Washington.
After the meetings, Kamala Harris tested Covid negative. But others in the White House and Capitol Hill tested positive, including an official in the office of the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, who had accompanied the delegation last week.
The entire Texas Democratic delegation is currently in a Washington hotel and meetings are being held virtually.