Enough Texas Democratic Representatives left the state on Monday, July 12, to deny Republicans the quorum needed to pass a voting bill on Tuesday morning.
At least 51 of the 67 state House Democrats were on a chartered flight paid for by the U.S. House Democratic Caucus to Washington, D.C., at about 3:30 p.m. Monday. They plan to lobby Congress for a federal voting rights bill that would help prevent restrictive state measures such as the bill set for a vote in Texas on July 13. A quorum of two-thirds of the 150-member state chamber must be present to conduct House business.
A similar walkout in May as the regular session drew to a close prevented passage of voting bills supported by Gov. Greg Abbott. Legislators did not leave the state at that time, just the Capitol building.
A bill to ban drive-through voting and limit vote-by-mail and early voting was a top priority for Abbott during the 87th regular session of the Texas Legislature, which ended May 31. As a result, he called a special session with 11 issues on the agenda, including voting restrictions, which began July 8.
Both parties pulled all-nighters Saturday, July 10. They each sent separate voting regulation bills to the House floor after committee hearings ended Sunday morning. Nearly 300 people signed up to testify during the hearings, some waiting as long as 17 hours to be heard. Of the 484 members of the public who registered a position on the bill with the House, 407 voiced opposition to the changes.
In the special session of the bill, Republicans toned down some of the tougher restrictions included in the regular session version. They dropped two controversial issues: one to restrict Sunday voting hours and another to make it easier for judges to overturn election results.