House District 65 State Rep. Michelle Beckley, D-Carrollton, left the state Monday with more than 50 other Democratic state legislators to kill a controversial bill that would introduce new voting restrictions.
Beckley — who was reelected in November and represents part of Denton County, including sections of Highland Village and Lewisville — shared some photos on Facebook of the group as they headed to Washington, D.C.
“My Democratic colleagues at the #txlege and I will do whatever it takes to kill the Texas #votersuppression bill,” Beckley wrote in the Facebook post. “We are breaking quorum and heading to our nation’s capitol to demand Congress to pass the #ForthePeopleAct.”
Enough Democrats have vowed to remain in Washington until the special legislative session ends Aug. 6 to prevent the lower chamber from having enough members present to pass bills, the Texas Tribune reported. The House gaveled in Tuesday morning for the first time since the Democrats’ departure and voted to send law enforcement to track down those who left the state. Without two-thirds of members present, Democrats’ absence is expected to bring the House to a halt just days into a 30-day special session with an agenda chock full of conservative-friendly items.
In a statement Monday afternoon, Gov. Greg Abbott said the move “inflicts harm on the very Texans who elected them to serve” and criticized Democrats for “[flying] across the country on cushy private planes” while “they leave undone issues that can help their districts and our state, such as property tax relief and funding for children in the state’s foster care system.”
Democrats — who are the minority party — walked out in the final hours of the regular legislative session in May, causing the House to lose its quorum and killing the voting legislation.
Last week, Republicans filed Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 3 to renew their efforts to prohibit many of the voting initiatives taken up by Harris County — the state’s largest county that is home to Houston and a diverse population — in 2020 to widen access to voting. Harris County pioneered the use of drive-thru voting to allow people to vote from their cars and overnight early voting hours for one day. The overnight voting was meant to reach voters like shift workers for whom the usual 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. hours are not convenient. Local officials have said both efforts proved particularly successful in reaching voters of color.
The bills carry over other measures from the failed SB 7 to bolster protections for partisan poll watchers and create new rules — and potential penalties — for people who assist people in casting their ballots, including those who help voters with disabilities. They also further clamp down on the state’s voting-by-mail rules, including a ban on local officials proactively sending out applications to request a mail-in ballot, even to voters 65 and older who automatically qualify to vote by mail.
Republicans in the Senate are also going beyond that failed bill to introduce a new proposal that would compel the Texas secretary of state to carry out monthly citizenship reviews of the state’s voter rolls.