What’s Going On in Texas?
Over the past week, the governor of the Lone Star state has threatened to have a number of legislators arrested and brought to the state house to vote on a bill that they left the state to protest. What made such drastic measures necessary, and why are Texas Democrats still fighting?
This past Monday, a majority of Texas House Democrats left the state on chartered planes to Dulles Airport in Washington in an effort to block the state’s Republicans from passing a new restrictive voting law. With similar laws already having been passed Georgia and Florida, Democrats are weary of Republican attempts to further control the election system.
The Democrats let the state to deny Republicans the requisite two-thirds of the chamber’s members for quorum, which would allow them to vote and presumably pass the bill. Governor Abbott, a Republican, has already threatened to arrest the Democrats when they come back to the state and bring them to the House to vote. Whether or not that happens is extremely contentious, but it remains obvious that Democrats have taken extreme measures against the bill.
How Will Voters React?
In large, Texans do not support the idea that there was rampant voter fraud last election. According to a Texas Tribune poll, 19 percent said they believed illegal voters frequently cast ballots, and 42 percent said illegal voters rarely or never cast ballots. Similarly, a Quinnipiac poll found that the debate over voting restriction bills was split half-and-half, both polls along party lines.
Nationally, the role of voting legislation seems to be more united. A Pew Research Center poll found that 61 percent of Americans supported automatically registration, and 78 percent supported making early voting available to voters at least two weeks before Election Day. Clearly, voter restriction bills are seen as divisive at minimum and unnecessary at large.
In Oregon, where Republicans walked out, voters have sought other measures to discipline lawmakers, and polls suggest that the vast majority of residents would consider a constitutional amendment to disqualify lawmakers from re-election if they miss more than ten sessions unexcused. While Texas is a bit different, it’s not secret that walking out on your constituency, both figuratively and literally, could be seen as unlikable in a number of upcoming re-election candidates.
What Republicans Are Going to Do
Well, at this point, there isn’t much they can do.
They seem to be cranking out large amounts of legislation from the Texas Senate without the House’s overview because of the mass absence of their members.
With the support of a number of nationally-recognized Democrats, the argument is not likely to lose press attention: Vice President Kamala Harris applauded the measures that the Texas Democrats took. Furthermore, because session cannot occur without Democrats present, their bill looks to be tabled for the moment.
However, given that their hold on both chambers of the state congress seems strong, it’s unlikely that the bill will be avoided forever. Some Democrats still hope that this mess will be alleviated by a bill similar to the For the People Act, which federal Republicans blocked with the filibuster. Regardless, it seems obvious at this point that Democrats are only postponing the inevitable: that voter restriction legislation will become law in Texas.