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Last Night, The Democrats Won-- In Texas!

The Republicans control all the levers of statewide power in Texas. The legislative districts are grotesquely gerrymandered and the 31-member state Senate has 18 Republicans and 13 Democrats while the 150-member House has 83 Republicans and 67 Democrats. The Republicans regularly shove through whatever they want without worrying about Democrats in the legislature or back in their districts.

Texas already has the most restrictive voting laws in the country and despite Trump-- and Republicans in general-- winning in 2020, the Texas GOP decided to to pass an even more restrictive package of voter suppression legislation-- much more restrictive.

CNN reported that the Republicans' "fear of losing power has incited them to champion sweeping measures limiting in-person voting hours and making it harder to vote by mail. As a practical matter, that's more likely to suppress the votes of Black and brown people, who overwhelmingly voted Democratic last year. The proposed legislation that the GOP-controlled Texas Senate rushed through for a vote on a holiday weekend-- without even allowing 24 hours to consider the revised bill in accordance with the chamber's rules-- will not allow early election voting to begin until 1 p.m. on a Sunday despite allowing it to begin at 6 a.m. on weekdays. Why? It's obvious: Black, and Latino voters in Texas organize get-out-the-vote efforts known as "souls to the polls" after church on Sunday mornings... But the Texas measure does something other GOP voter suppression laws don't-- at least not yet. (Don't be surprised if other GOP states follow Texas' lead.) The Texas Republicans apparently have a backup plan in case-- despite all their restrictions-- Democratic candidates are able to win. They are revising Texas law to make it easier for judges to overturn the will of the people after the election is over."

The Senate passed bill had a midnight deadline to pass the House on Sunday. Just before the final vote, the House Democrats walked out, depriving the Republicans of a two-thirds quorum and preventing a vote. It was the stuff of history. This morning the Texas Tribune reported that "In between their speeches opposing the bill, Democrats seemed to be trickling off the floor throughout the night, a number of their desks appearing empty. During an earlier vote to adopt a resolution allowing last-minute additions to the bill, just 35 of 67 Democrats appeared to cast votes. Around 10:30 p.m., the remaining Democrats were seen walking out of the chamber. Their absence left the House without a quorum-- which requires two-thirds of the 150 House members to be present-- needed to take a vote."

By 11:15 p.m. about 30 Democrats could be seen arriving at a Baptist church about 2 miles away from the Capitol in East Austin.
The location for Democrats' reunion appeared to be a nod at a last-minute addition to the expansive bill that set a new restriction on early voting hours on Sundays, limiting voting from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. Over the last two days, Democrats had derided the addition-- dropped in during behind-closed-door negotiations-- raising concerns that change would hamper “souls to the polls” efforts meant to turn out voters, particularly Black voters, after church services.
Standing outside the church, Democrats said the walkout came only after it appeared Democrats' plan to run out the clock on the House floor with speeches wasn't going to work because Republicans had the votes to use a procedural move to cut off debate and force a final vote on the legislation.
“We saw that coming,” said state Rep. Nicole Collier, a Fort Worth Democrat and chair of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus. “We’ve used all the tools in our toolbox to fight this bill. And tonight we pulled out that last one.”
With about an hour left before the midnight deadline, House Speaker Dade Phelan acknowledged the lost quorum and adjourned until 10 a.m. Monday morning. Midnight was the cutoff for the House and Senate to sign off on the final versions of bills that have been negotiated during conference committees.
...But while Democrats were able to defeat the legislation Sunday, Abbott quickly made clear he expected lawmakers to finish the job during a special session.

Abbott plans to call a special session for gerrymandering the state in June and that's when the Republicans plan to shove through the voter suppression legislation.

Former House candidate and Texas voting rights advocate Mike Siegel, told me today that "We know the Republicans are on the warpath. Whether it’s their attempts to overturn the election, the January 6 insurrection and their refusal to promote accountability; or here in Texas, the giveaways to natural gas companies in the wake of the deadly February freeze, or the attacks on voting rights embodied in Texas Senate Bill 7: the GOP will do anything it takes to keep power, democracy be damned. For too long, Democrats have fought with one hand tied beyond our backs, pleading for fairness and bipartisanship in the face of incipient fascism. This is best embodied by the US Senate’s refusal to abolish the filibuster, even when it comes to raising starvation wages, guaranteeing equality, protecting unions or strengthening the right to vote. In that context, and especially in Texas where extremist Republicans control every section of state government, last night’s quorum break is historic. And even more than that, inspiring. Facing arrest by Texas Rangers, knowing that the Republicans will just try again anyway, Texas House Democrats took the ultimate action: boycott. Walkout. Strike. Technically they broke quorum, but that’s too mundane a way to describe it. They took action. Militant action. To stop further voter suppression at all costs. Color me surprised. And excited. This could be the first step in a true Democratic resurgence. A state party that is ready to throw down instead of cowering in the shadows. Last night was a great victory. We held the forces of reaction at bay. And hopefully started some much-needed momentum, to take back the state of Texas."

This morning I caught up with Julie Oliver just as she was leaving her home in Austin to drive up to Grand Prairie to block walk for Junior Ezeonu, the progressive city council candidate, who forced the Chamber of Commerce shill into a runoff. "I guess," said Julie, "all I wanna say is hallelujah. It is a momentous occasion because we have fought in wars to defeat fascism, and Republicans are trying desperately to reinstate it here. I am so grateful for Texas Democrats exercised the courage to defeat the most onerous voter suppression bill in the United States."

This morning, Nick Corasaniti, explained what happened in Texas to NY Times readers: "Democrats in the Texas Legislature staged a dramatic, late-night walkout on Sunday night to force the failure of a sweeping Republican overhaul of state election laws. The move, which deprived the session of the minimum number of lawmakers required for a vote before a midnight deadline, was a stunning setback for state Republicans who had made a new voting law one of their top priorities."

The Democratic flight was sparked by State Representative Chris Turner, the party’s caucus chair in the House, who sent a text message to members at 10:35 p.m. local time.
“Members, take your key and leave the chamber discreetly,” Mr. Turner wrote. “Do not go to the gallery. Leave the building. ~ Chris”
In a statement early Monday, Mr. Turner said the walkout had been a last resort.
“It became obvious Republicans were going to cut off debate to ram through their vote suppression legislation,” he said. “At that point, we had no choice but to take extraordinary measures to protect our constituents and their right to vote.”
Early Monday, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican, lashed out at his House colleagues and indirectly criticized the Republican leadership in the House, saying in a statement that it had “failed the people of Texas tonight. No excuse.”
...[The GOP] setback in Texas is unlikely to calm Democratic pressure in Washington to pass new federal voting laws. President Biden and key Democrats in Congress are confronting rising calls from their party to do whatever is needed-- including abolishing the Senate filibuster, which moderate senators have resisted-- to push through a major voting rights and elections overhaul that would counteract the wave of Republican laws.
After the Texas bill became public on Saturday, Mr. Biden denounced it, along with similar measures in Georgia and Florida, as “an assault on democracy,” blasting the moves in a statement as “disproportionately targeting Black and Brown Americans.”
He urged Congress to pass Democrats’ voting bills, the most ambitious of which, the For the People Act, would expand access to the ballot, reduce the role of money in politics, strengthen enforcement of existing election laws and limit gerrymandering. Another measure, the narrower John Lewis Voting Rights Act, would restore crucial parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that were struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013, including the requirement that some states receive federal approval before changing their election laws.
Aside from Texas, multiple states, including Arizona, Ohio and Michigan, have legislatures that are still in session and that may move forward on new voting laws. Republicans in Michigan have pledged to work around a likely veto from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, by collecting signatures from citizens and seeking to pass new restrictions through a ballot initiative.
Republican lawmakers in battleground states have been backed in their effort by a party base and conservative media that have largely embraced the election falsehoods spread by Trump and his allies. G.O.P. legislators have argued that the nation must improve its “election security” even though the results of the last election have been confirmed by multiple audits, lawsuits, court decisions, election officials and even Trump’s own attorney general as free, safe, fair and secure.
...Voting rights groups have long pointed to Texas as one of the hardest states in the country for voters to cast ballots. One recent study by Northern Illinois University ranked Texas last in an index measuring the difficulty of voting. The report cited a host of factors, including a drastic reduction of polling stations in some parts of the state and strict voter identification laws.

The dozen most anti-democracy states, in terms of allowing citizens to vote-- from bad to worst are:

  • Alabama

  • Florida

  • Indiana

  • Arkansas

  • Kentucky

  • South Carolina

  • New Hampshire

  • Tennessee

  • Mississippi

  • Missouri

  • Georgia

  • Texas

Bad bunch! Very bad bunch!

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