Texas Democrats celebrated their defeat of a restrictive voting bill on Monday, but warned that the bill, which Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has promised to bring back during a special session, remains a threat.
On Monday, Texas state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, a San Antonio Democrat, told CNN, “Today is a great day, but I can’t help but feel bitter, disappointed, and hurt.”
Late Sunday night, Democrats walked off the state House floor, leaving majority Republicans without the quorum needed to pass the bill before the midnight deadline. The bill was effectively killed for this year’s legislative session, but Abbott has already tweeted that “election integrity” will be added to a list of topics lawmakers will discuss in a special session he plans to call.
The bill’s introduction coincided with Memorial Day, “a day we celebrate and honor men and women who put their lives on the line to defend freedom and democracy,” according to Martinez Fischer.
“But yet under Senate Bill 7, the bill that we killed last night, those same soldiers could not come home and go vote after walking out of their church because of the provisions in this bill,” he continued. “That’s how bad it is — we can defend democracy abroad, but when we come home we’re going to suppress their vote.”
The bill would make mail-in voting more difficult by requiring voters to provide more information, prohibiting local elections officials from sending absentee ballot applications to anyone who has not requested one, and prohibiting local elections officials from collaborating with get-out-the-vote organizations that encourage Texans to vote by mail. It would, among other things, prohibit early voting on Sundays before 1 p.m., effectively limiting the “souls to the polls” after-church voter registration drives that are popular in Black churches.
Although Abbott has the power to call a special session, Texas state Rep. Joe Moody, a Democrat, defended his colleagues’ decision to CNN’s John Berman on Monday, saying that “at a certain point you have to draw a line and we’ve got to decide what’s right and what’s wrong.”
“What’s wrong is to take away the access to the ballot box, and all of us on the Democratic side of the aisle that chose this path knew the consequences, and we were willing to risk them,” Moody said on “New Day.”
Abbott’s decision to call a special session “over a political move is disheartening and it’s a shame for Texas,” Democratic state Rep. Nicole Collier said later Monday.
But asked by CNN’s Poppy Harlow on “Erin Burnett OutFront” whether her caucus could again walk off the floor to block the measure during a special session, Collier said the move is “a nuclear option and of course you always want to try to work and have collaboration with your colleagues.”
Abbott mentioned a special session in a statement on Monday as the next step for the voting bill.
“Ensuring the integrity of our elections and reforming a broken bail system remain emergencies in Texas, which is why these items, along with other priority items, will be added to the special session agenda,” he said. “I expect legislators to have worked out their differences prior to arriving back at the Capitol so that they can hit the ground running to pass legislation related to these emergency items and other priority legislation. During the special session, we will continue to advance policies that put the people of Texas first.”
Martinez Fischer explained how the decision to break quorum was made after an emotionally charged Sunday afternoon meeting with African American, Latino, and Asian American Pacific Islander lawmakers, which was followed by an evening whipping vote among their Democratic colleagues.
“We hit a tipping point, and senior members — African Americans, Latinos who have been in this situation before — said, ‘The time is now,’ ” he said.
He cited President Joe Biden’s statement on Saturday, in which he called the Texas measure “un-American” and called for federal voter protections, which are currently stuck in Congress.