STATE REPRESENTATIVE Armando Walle, a Democrat from Houston, brought an unusually large suitcase when he visited Washington, CC, this week. For several months, Democrats in the Texas legislature have waged a fierce battle against a bill on “electoral integrity” touted by Republicans, including Governor Greg Abbott. The Democratic caucus flight to the capital temporarily interrupts a measure that would have been controversial at any time. Now, with so many Republicans still repeating the former president’s lie that the last election was a fraud, the fight has taken on Texan proportions.
In May, on the last day of this year’s regular legislative session, Democrats walked out of Texas House, denying Republicans the quorum they needed to pass the bill, or whatever (Texas House has a rule that says that two-thirds of the members must be present for the chamber to vote on laws). Mr Abbott responded by promising to summon lawmakers for a special session to tackle the issue, and to veto funding for the legislative branch of state government in the meantime. He went on to call lawmakers in Austin for a special session that began on July 8, triggering the events that led Democratic lawmakers to leave the state on private planes and could, perhaps, end in a crisis. straightforward constitutional law in Texas.
Republicans control both houses of the state legislature by healthy margins. If Congress remains indifferent to calls from refugees to pass a new federal election law, lawmakers in the Democratic state will soon find themselves in embarrassing limbo, counting the days until the end of the special session on August 7, without a plan. clear after that. point. “We are living on borrowed time,” a group of Democratic leaders said in a statement.
Meanwhile, in Austin, the Republicans are raging. “As soon as they return to the state of Texas, they will be arrested,” Abbott said on a local news station (which instead undermines his claim to uphold democratic standards). “They will be locked inside the Texas Capitol until they do their jobs.” He also pledged to convene as many special sessions as needed until the end of next year to ensure the legislation is passed.
Preventing the state legislature from functioning in the name of preserving democracy puts Mr. Walle and his fellow Democrats on difficult ground. There is precedent for quorom-breaking flights, but breaking one standard to save another requires weighing the relative damage. Democrats rightly argue that the Republican bill is driven by the Trump-boosted myth of a stolen election and, perhaps less fairly, that Republicans cannot win Texas without suppressing Texans votes. non-whites, who lean towards Democrats. That the first draft of the Election Bill targeted early voting on Sundays, when many African Americans go to the polling station after church, has been revealing.
The current version of the bill is better. A few provisions would ban innovations Harris County in Houston launched last year (such as 24-hour and drive-thru voting). These have proven to be popular and have worked well, but banning them would be tantamount to not encouraging the vote rather than removing it. However, the bill also seeks to expand the power of pro-election observers, which could facilitate harassment and intimidation of voters. In the 2020 election, some local Republican officials attempted to recruit poll observers to volunteer in heavily black and Hispanic neighborhoods.
“I am Okay have a battle of ideas and lose; it happens to me, as a Democrat, all the time, ”said Diego Bernal, a Democrat representing San Antonio. “It’s about rigging the system to produce a certain result.” This view is so widely shared by Texas Democrats that they will gladly take a position that seems doomed to fail. “We live on these ideals of freedom – well, not everyone was free in this country when it was created,” Mr. Walle said. “Not everyone had the right to vote. We had a civil war; we had the Reconstruction; we had Jim Crow, we had state sanctioned discrimination. His grandfather, born in 1930, had some of these experiences and is now, at 91, still a Texas voter. Hence the big suitcase. ■
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This article appeared in the United States section of the print edition under the title “Texodus”