At least 58 legislators in the state’s House of Representatives were projected to flee Austin on Monday to paralyze the chamber until they return to the Texas Capitol, according to NBC News, which cited a source familiar with the matter. The majority of the disgruntled lawmakers will be boarding private jets and flying to Washington, D.C., to rendezvous with others in support of federal voting bills that would expand provisions such as early and mail-in voting.
“Today, 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,” the House Democratic Caucus said in a joint statement.
“We are now taking the fight to our nation’s Capitol,” the group added. “We are living on borrowed time in Texas. We need Congress to act now to pass the ‘For the People Act’ and the ‘John Lewis Voting Rights Act’ to protect Texans — and all Americans — from the Trump Republicans’ nationwide war on democracy.”
Under the Texas Constitution, two-thirds of lawmakers must be present to conduct business, and those who evade the task may be legally required to return. State Republicans may deploy the Department of Public Safety to track them down.
At the direction of Gov. Greg Abbott, a special session was called on Thursday, and GOP legislators introduced Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 3, a pair of bills that would ban drive-thru voting, implement more comprehensive voter ID requirements for mail-in ballots, and prohibit officials from sending voting applications to those who did not request them. Republicans insist the move will strengthen election integrity and curb fraud, while Democratic counterparts posit that the legislation would put an undue burden on minority voters.
“I will tell you this also, Chris, and that is, even Democrats in the Texas House of Representatives, they agree that as it concerns mail-in ballots, that is an area where improving the mail-in ballot system is a way to achieve greater election integrity, so what Texas is doing is we’re making it easier to vote by adding more hours of early voting than we had in current law but also making it harder to cheat with regard to mail-in ballots,” Abbott said on Sunday during a segment on Fox News.
Similar bills were introduced in May, though Democrats staged an eleventh-hour walkout, and voting on the matter was halted. To block the new legislation successfully, left-leaning lawmakers will need to evade the Austin area for the entire duration of the special session, which may last as many as 30 days.
Neither Texas House Republicans nor Democrats immediately responded to a request for comment from the Washington Examiner.