The Texas House of Representatives on Tuesday authorized raids and potentially arrests of absent Democrats to block voting on a law that makes it difficult to vote in the state.
With 80 votes for and 12 against, the Republican-controlled House empowered the head of Security and Protocol to send agents to force the presence of absent members “under arrest warrant if necessary”.
The move came after the state Supreme Court overturned a district court ruling that Gov. Greg Abbott and Speaker of the House Dade Phelan, both Republicans, did not have the power to order the arrest of elected colleagues. The two then filed an appeal.
The scramble to assess the bill that makes access to the vote difficult began in late May, when Democrats blocked the vote in the dying hours of the 2021 legislative session.
In response, the governor called a 30-day special session, which ended unsuccessfully on Friday, after the majority of the 67 Democrats remained in Washington, outside of Texas jurisdiction. As a result, Abbott called a second session, which began Saturday (7), and promised to call “extraordinary session after extraordinary session” to force a vote on the electoral measure.
On Tuesday, 11 Democrats returned to the House and voted en bloc against the measure to force the attendance of absentees. A Republican, Lyle Larson, joined the group – he’s known to sometimes not follow the party’s lead.
Even with the return of these deputies, the number was not sufficient for there to be a quorum to vote on the electoral law. More than 20 Democrats remain in Washington, and an uncertain number is believed to have returned to Texas, being vulnerable to the new measure if police go looking for those absent.
Republican Representative Matt Krause said he hoped the threat of an “intense” option like jail would persuade those lawmakers to return voluntarily.
One of the missing Democrats, Celia Israel, said in a statement that she and her colleagues had used the breaking of the quorum as a last resort to block legislation “that will deliberately make it more difficult for Texans to vote freely, safely. and fairly “.
With a series of limitations and bans, the proposal makes it even more difficult to vote in a state with one of the most restrictive election laws in the United States. The bill rolls back measures used last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, such as drive-thru voting, which would have helped boost turnout in Houston.
The text also limits the early opening of electoral zones, prohibiting voting before 1:00 p.m. on Sundays. Critics say it is an attack on the effort of predominantly black-frequented churches, where worshipers travel in caravans to vote after morning services.
In addition, the bill makes it more difficult to deposit ballots in transit, eliminates both PO boxes or PO boxes and polling stations open 24 hours a day, and prohibits the use of mobile or temporary structures such as polling stations.
The bill also realizes the judicialization of the election, which makes it easier for the courts to overturn elections in which there is an allegation of fraud. Rather than asking for proof that the fraudulent votes directly resulted in the victory of a candidate, the court could annul the election if the number of those votes is equal to the margin of victory, regardless of which candidate they benefited from. .
The measures would also affect Texans who vote by mail. Election authorities would be prohibited from sending remote ballots without being solicited by voters – who usually receive them automatically, on the basis of a list.
The discussion in Texas is part of a nationwide Republican initiative to make voting difficult, with 30 such laws passed in 18 states, according to an investigation by the Brennan Center for Justice.
Lawmakers in Donald Trump’s party were encouraged by a base that adopted the former president’s unproven claims that there was voter fraud last year. However, Republican attorney himself, William Barr, dismissed the theory in December.
Democrats and civil rights groups argue that such legislation disproportionately weighs or discourages non-white voters as well as older and disabled voters.
On the other hand, proponents of the proposal say that it is necessary to strengthen security during the elections. The text of the measure specifies that the changes “are not intended to undermine the right to free vote”, but are necessary to “prevent fraud in the electoral process”.
In last year’s election, however, there were no major allegations of fraud in Texas, and Republicans wielded influence spanning three decades in both the legislature and the government. executive of the state.