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Fleeing Texas Democrats aim to block Republican voting law

Published: Jul. 13, 2021 at 4:22 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Democrats from the Texas Legislature are now in Washington, D.C. after fleeing the state, aiming to prevent Republicans from passing a voting law that they say limits voting access.

During a dramatic and packed press conference on the national mall Tuesday, Texas House Democratic Caucus Chair Chris Turner acknowledged that his appearance in Washington is a temporary solution as he, and nearly 50 other state democrats, hope to run out the clock on the special legislative session in Texas.

“We are going to work hard as a group to maintain our unity and remind ourselves why we are in this fight,” Turner said.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott called the special session so the legislature could vote on two bills that aim, in part, to ban 24-hour and drive-through voting. Supporters say the measures will strengthen election security, while critics call it voter suppression.

“No matter what we have to sacrifice, it’s worth it to protect the voting rights of 30 million Texans,” said Rep. Gene Wu (D-Houston).

The Texas Democrats first blocked efforts to restrict voting in May by staging a walkout, which made it impossible for the legislature to hold a vote because House rules require a certain number of representatives to be present for any proceedings to go on.

Their latest strategy, leaving the state, continues to take advantage of those rules. Texas Republicans can have the Democrats arrested and brought to the House chamber in order to secure a quorum, but Democrats have escaped the state’s jurisdiction by heading to Washington.

It’s likely that Gov. Abbot will use his power to keep calling special sessions upon their return until the voting bills pass. There is no limit on the number of special sessions he can call.

While in Washington, the Democrats say they plan to shift their focus nationally to rally support for voting reform at the federal level.

Meanwhile, many Republicans, who are vocal on social media, say the Democrats are shirking their responsibilities at home.

Rep. Brooks Landgraf (R-Andrews) wrote in a Facebook post that Democrats were “engaging in an act of political theatre,” adding that there are items besides voting reform on the special session agenda that can’t move forward without quorum.

“The Democrats must put aside partisan political games and get back to the job they were elected to do,” Gov. Abbot said in a statement Monday.

The Democratic lawmakers said they are prepared to stay in Washington for several weeks until the special session ends next month.

Grace Ferguson contributed to this report.

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