Texas Dems to flee state to stop elections bill

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Democratic state legislators in Texas will flee the state in order to deny Republicans in Austin the opportunity to pass new election laws, they said Monday.

“Texas House Democrats stand united in our decision to break quorum and refuse to let the Republican-led legislature force through dangerous legislation that would trample on Texans' freedom to vote,” a statement signed by caucus leaders read.

Republicans are rushing to pass new election laws in a special session called by GOP Gov. Greg Abbott, after attempts to pass a bill crumbled during the previous session earlier this year. Their first attempt was undermined by GOP infighting and a last-minute walkout from state House Democrats.

Republicans have been moving quickly during the special session to try again, with legislators in both chambers introducing legislation almost immediately. Committees in both the state House and the state Senate voted over the weekend to advance bills, meaning they could get a vote on the floor of their respective chambers sometime this week, if there was a quorum.

One source familiar with the plans said that some of the lawmakers will be flying to Washington to meet with members of Congress and urge them to pass federal voting-rights legislation.

“We are living on borrowed time in Texas,” the caucus leaders' statement said, adding that they hoped Congress would pass two bills proposed by Democrats to “to protect Texans — and all Americans — from the Trump Republicans’ nationwide war on democracy.”

Last week, several Texas Democrats raised the specter of staging another walkout to try to kill the legislation. But because the state legislative session runs for 30 days, they will have to be outside Texas for weeks.

VoteBeat, a publication focused on voting and election administration, first reported the walkout plans.

The bills advanced this past weekend contained many similar provisions to SB7, the election legislation that failed earlier in the year, which would have added several new restrictions to voting in the state.

Vice President Kamala Harris on Monday praised the Texas Democrats. Before a listening session about voting rights with Michigan leaders, Harris said she wanted to make a statement about Texas legislators who were showing “extraordinary courage and commitment.”

“I applaud those standing for the rights of all Americans and all Texans to express their voice through their vote, unencumbered,” Harris continued. “They are leaders who are marching in the path that so many others before did, when they fought — and many died — for our right to vote.”

A delegation of Texas lawmakers previously met with Harris last month, when they visited D.C. following their first walkout.

Even if Democrats do successfully block a quorum for the special session, it may not be the end of the road for Republicans’ efforts to pass election legislation. Abbott could continue to call special sessions, and there is already another session planned for later in the year to deal with redistricting.

It isn’t immediately clear how Republicans plan to respond to another walkout. State House Speaker Dade Phelan told a local TV station that “all options are on the table” in response to a theoretical walkout last week.

Phelan’s office did not respond to a question from POLITICO late last week asking to elaborate what those options were, and his office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday afternoon.

State House rules do allow the speaker to order the doors locked and the sergeant-at-arms to hunt down missing members, something he did not pursue when Democrats walked out during the regular session.

Marissa Martinez contributed to this report.

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