AUSTIN, Texas — A day after Democrats from Texas’ legislature fled their state, the state Senate approved a controversial elections bill, and bail legislation, along party lines 18-4. The vote came on the same day that President Joe Biden gave an impassioned speech about protecting voting rights.
More than 50 Democrats from Texas’ House flew to Washington, D.C. Monday to avoid voting on the elections bill. If they do not return before the special session ends, the Senate-passed bills will die.
Although Democratic state senators also left the state, the Senate was able to keep quorum with 22 of its 31 members and vote on the bill, according to the Texas Tribune. Texas Governor Greg Abbott has said lawmakers who return to the state should be picked up by law enforcement and brought back to the capitol.
The elections bill in Texas, called Senate Bill 1, includes many measures that tried to pass the legislature in May. At that time, Democrats walked out so quorum couldn’t be reached, and the measures failed.
A special session was called this summer to force legislators to work on the elections measures and other issues.
Senate Bill 1 includes proposals to ban drive-thru and 24-hour voting options and enhances access for partisan poll watchers, the Texas Tribune reports.
These options were used in Harris County among others in Texas during the 2020 election.
In response to Texas, Florida, Georgia and other state legislatures passing elections-related measures that limit absentee and early voting, President Biden had fierce words during a speech Tuesday.
"They want to make it so hard to vote they hope people won't vote at all. That's what this is about," Biden said, promising his administration will "challenge it rigorously."
The Texas Democrats who fled to D.C. are hoping to pressure federal lawmakers to pass the For the People Act, which would set national limits on absentee and early voting, among other measures. The bill has passed the House of Representatives and is currently waiting to be brought up in the Senate.