Texas Republicans advance elections bills in special session

Texas Republicans advanced two elections bills this weekend in a special session, as they work to pass sweeping legislation that would impose a number of restrictions at the ballot box.

Members of the Texas legislature have been sparring over the measures as Republicans work to pass an elections overhaul bill to which Democrats are starkly opposed.

State Democrats staged a walkout in May, exiting the House floor on the final night of the legislative session to prevent the passage of a controversial voting bill, which called for adding new obstacles to voting in future elections and limiting the availability of certain methods of voting that are predominantly used by low income people and people with disabilities.

Texas lawmakers returned to the state Capitol last week to kick off a special session that includes a docket full of conservative priorities, including an overhaul of the state’s elections rules.

Republican members of the state House and Senate began chipping away at those priorities this weekend, advancing two bills out of committees that call for prohibiting 24-hour-voting and nixing drive-through voting, two strategies that were heavily used in the 2020 election to help people vote during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to The Washington Post.

The state Senate voted along party lines to advance Senate Bill 1 out of committee on Sunday afternoon, 6 to 3, according to the Post.

The state House advanced House Bill 3 out of committee early Sunday morning in a party-line 9 to 5 vote, following a hearing that ran from Saturday overnight into Sunday, the Post reported.

The votes came after hundreds of Texans arrived at the state Capitol to opine on the bills, many of whom were in opposition, according to the newspaper.

The pieces of legislation were ultimately adjusted to omit two of the most controversial measures: banning early voting before 1 p.m. on Sundays, and making it easier for judges to overturn an election, the Post reported.

Texas Democrats, however, are now reportedly considering leaving the state to block the passage of the elections overhaul bill, similar to their walkout in May.

People with knowledge of the discussions told The New York Times that there have been early conversations about how Democrats could flee Texas and not have to return to the state Capitol to temporarily block the bill’s passage.

Democrats who are in support of the move say the plan could bring a spotlight on voting rights in Texas. The group also said it could increase the pressure on Democrats in the U.S. Senate to pass voting rights reforms.

Texas is one of a number of Republican-led states that is seeing a push to enact sweeping elections reforms following the 2020 presidential election.

Arizona, Florida and Georgia have all passed their own election overhaul laws.

Last month, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that the Department of Justice was suing the state of Georgia over its elections bill.

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