Texas Democrats Stay Out Of State Again

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On Saturday, Democrats from the Texas state legislature again remained out of the state, blocking officials from kickstarting a second special session that Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott recently called in hopes of getting a set of voting restrictions passed. The Democrats’ absence meant that the Texas state House did not have a quorum, and the chamber now stands adjourned until Monday, although it’s not clear that a quorum will be present at that point either. For now, the proposed voting restrictions remain off the books.

Texas Democrats were also absent amid a previous attempt to get the elections bill passed in a different special session, and earlier this year, legislators abandoned the state House floor hours before a deadline for work on the bill during a preceding regular session. Texas Republicans are hoping to ban drive-thru voting — which was used last year amid the pandemic in the highly populated area of Harris County, which includes Houston, and they’re also hoping to broaden protections and access for partisan poll watchers. State legislators are also hoping to ban officials from sending unsolicited mail-in ballot applications to voters, although such a move can help expand access to the electoral process. No systematic election integrity problems were discovered with last year’s presidential election process, making these proposed restrictions punitive.

On Saturday, a joint statement from the legislators indicated that 26 of the Democrats from the Texas state House who had exited the state would remain “part of an active presence in Washington maintained for as long as Congress is working.” Still, one Democratic state legislator who opted to return to Texas this week “said enough of his colleagues may also begin trickling back to secure a quorum next week,” according to the Associated Press, so the full breadth of the path ahead isn’t immediately clear. Democratic state Rep. Eddie Lucio III said that he “was encouraged that the baton would be carried by my Washington colleagues at the federal level, that there would be sweeping reform nationwide.”

Texas state Attorney General Ken Paxton (R), notably, was among the leaders in the post-election effort last year to get Biden’s victory thrown out. He filed a lawsuit with the U.S. Supreme Court asking the court to set Biden’s wins in four states aside, although no court anywhere in the country has at any point accepted the idea that systematic problems were responsible for Biden’s victory. The Supreme Court refused to take up Paxton’s case, and not a single justice indicated that they’d have thrown out Biden’s wins in those four states under scrutiny, even if they had taken up the case.