July 14, 2021

Texas Democrats

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Democrats in the Texas Legislature bolted Monday for Washington, and said they were ready to remain there for weeks in a second revolt against a GOP overhaul of election laws… Private planes carrying more than 50 Democrats left Austin for Dulles International Airport midafternoon, skipping town just days before the Texas House of Representatives was expected to give early approval to sweeping new voting restrictions in a special legislative session. The numbers meant the House would not have enough lawmakers in attendance to conduct business and could not, at least for now, vote on the bill.” AP News

Here are the Texas House and Senate bills being considered. Texas Legislature

The bills would:

  • Ban drive-thru voting
  • Expand required early voting hours, but ban 24-hour voting
  • Ban distributing unsolicited mail-in ballot applications
  • Add ID requirements for mail-in ballots instead of signature matching, along with a process to correct issues with mail-in ballots
  • Enhance protections for partisan poll watchers

Texas Tribune

See past issues

From the Left

The left is generally supportive of the Democrats’ tactics, arguing that aggressive tactics are a necessary response to the GOP’s efforts to restrict voting.

The Texas House bill could “lead to prosecutions of people who commit minor paperwork errors. The provision at issue requires election officials to report anyone who unlawfully registers to vote to the state attorney general… Texas, under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, is required to allow people to register to vote when they apply for a driver’s license. Thus, a noncitizen who accidentally checks the voter registration box on Texas’s driver’s license application form could face criminal charges…

“​​The Senate bill, meanwhile, makes it a felony for many people to engage in ‘vote harvesting,’ a pejorative term for picking up another person’s absentee ballot and taking it to a polling place. And it allows the state to sue any election official who commits a violation of the state election code. Someone sued under this provision may face ‘termination of the person’s employment and loss of the person’s employment benefits.’ One of the bill’s primary functions, in other words, is to impose potentially catastrophic consequences on election officials who depart even slightly from a complicated array of rules…

“It should go without saying that a party that controls a minority of the seats in a state legislature should not ordinarily be allowed to shut down all business by fleeing the state. But it should also go without saying that the party that controls a majority should not be allowed to pass election laws seeking to entrench that majority.”
Ian Millhiser, Vox

Texas’s ever-expanding web of rules and restrictions would not just limit the activities it explicitly prohibits; it would force election workers, volunteers and even friends of would-be voters to second-guess whether they should drive an acquaintance to the polls or ask a disruptive poll watcher to quiet down — in case Mr. Paxton decides to make a case out of it…

“The Texas bill may not seem to represent a dramatic policy shift, let alone one that should prompt the walkout Texas Democratic lawmakers staged on Monday. Banning 24-hour voting, which many states fail to provide, would not represent the end of the franchise. Yet Texas was already one of the toughest states in which to cast a ballot…

“The direction of Texas’s anti-voting campaign, and the fig-leaf excuses with which Republicans justify it, reflect a lack of confidence in their own popularity — and a toxic disdain for democracy that should offend every American.”
Editorial Board, Washington Post

“[Governor] Abbott has the power to just keep calling special sessions for the foreseeable future. Which would force the Texas House members who fled the state on Monday to stay away from the state for, potentially, months. Which is simply not practical. You can't stay away forever, and Republicans are well-positioned -- they control the governorship as well as both state legislative chambers -- to wait Democrats out…

“Texas (and national) Democrats know that, of course. What their flight to Washington on Monday is really about is a) drawing national attention to the voting bill in the state b) buying themselves some time to strategize and c) giving themselves the only sort of leverage they can have in a state legislature totally dominated by the opposing party.”
Chris Cillizza, CNN

“The truth is that without national legislation, Texas' new bill will pass and go into effect. It will be harder for Texans to vote in the midterms compared to last year. And that's before we even get to whether congressional districts will be gerrymandered even further than they are as two new seats are added. Now is exactly when aggressive action to protect voting is needed, and I've seen more gumption from these Texas lawmakers than I've seen from the entire U.S. Senate lately…

“These 50-plus state lawmakers are risking arrest to prevent more hurdles from being placed in their voters' way to the ballot box. I'd love to see that same energy from Washington Democrats on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.”
Hayes Brown, MSNBC

From the Right

The right is critical of the Democrats’ tactics, arguing that they are undermining democracy and that it is hypocritical to support them while opposing the filibuster.

The right is critical of the Democrats’ tactics, arguing that they are undermining democracy and that it is hypocritical to support them while opposing the filibuster.

“What’s proposed in Texas? First, the bills would end two practices that Harris County pioneered last year amid the pandemic: drive-through voting and 24-hour voting… reverting to the pre-Covid status quo of 2019 is not some epochal loss for voting rights

“This is not a blockade of the ballot box. To the contrary, in some places the bills would expand mandatory early voting hours. Current law says that in the final week before Election Day, counties with 100,000 people must open their ‘main’ polling place for 12 hours on weekdays and five hours on Sunday. The House would lower the population threshold to 55,000, and the Senate would set it at 30,000. Both would also require six hours of Sunday voting…

“If Texas Democrats think one provision or another is wrong, then they should stay in Austin and argue the case to the public. They claim to be fighting for democracy, even as they deny a quorum to prevent democracy from functioning.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“Legislators only ever flee the state when they know they’re going to lose because they’re in the minority. In other words, they know that the people have rejected them at the ballot box. With 83 Republicans and 67 Democrats in the Texas House, the Democrats know they are going to lose the vote on the pending election bill. And no, the Republicans’ majority is not from gerrymandering. Eighty-three out of 150 is 55.33 percent of the seats. Republicans won 54.92 percent of the votes in Texas House races in 2020. Almost perfectly proportional…

“All this is a bit rich coming from a party that at the national level seems to believe that legislative majorities, no matter how thin, should be able to do whatever they want. The 60-vote threshold for legislation in the U.S. Senate must be abolished, they say, but at the state level, it’s apparently fine to flee the state to prevent an elected majority from passing legislation…

“Legislators who flee their states are failing to fulfill the duty the voters entrusted to them. Whether you agree with the policy position or not, it’s not an acceptable tactic for legislators to use. If you don’t want to show up for work, that’s fine: Resign. Step aside and allow a special election for voters to choose someone else to represent them.”
Dominic Pino, National Review

“For years, Democrats have insisted that they are on the verge of turning Texas blue… Now, it appears they have surrendered the state entirely, literally abandoning it and their jobs to go ‘strategize’ with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Vice President Kamala Harris. Texas Democrats have decided that their job is not to legislate in Texas, but to stump for the For the People Act, the Democratic power grab that would overrule state laws on voter ID and other issues…

“If you thought that the natural winds of the 2022 midterm elections were going to favor Republicans before, just wait until Texas Democrats have to face voters in the state they fled in order to become the pawns of liberals from New York City and California. That is if they decide to end their Washington vacation before the next election.”
Zachary Faria, Washington Examiner

“[The] Democratic lawmakers liveblogged their journey, photographing themselves chartering a bus on their way to the airport armed with a case of Miller Lite… From there, these oversharing lawmakers photographed themselves in one of the private planes they chartered on their way to the nation’s capital, where all declined to observe masking guidelines that the Federal Aviation Administration mandates for all air passengers…

“At no point did these lawmakers consider that their behaviors—from shutting down the proceedings of a duly elected government, to retreating to the embrace of federal Democrats, to casually flouting the pandemic-related inconveniences that the little people still must observe—might not endear them to their constituents back home.”
Noah Rothman, Commentary Magazine

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