Abbott asks Texas Supreme Court to overturn judge's decision on arrests of Democrats

Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott (R) has asked the state’s Supreme Court to overturn a judge’s decision barring the state from arresting House Democrats that continue to block a vote on an elections bill.

Abbott and Texas House Speaker Dan Phelan (R) filed an emergency motion asking the court to overturn an order from District Judge Brad Urrutia, stopping the state from exercising the authority to arrest the lawmakers, The Austin American Statesman reported.

Abbott and Phelan are asking the court to overturn the order by 5 p.m. Tuesday, noting that a second special session is ongoing and the “House Democrats’ return” is “imminent.”

"Compelling the attendance of its members is a prerogative given to the House by the Texas Constitution,” the motion reads, according to the newspaper.

The appeal comes a day after Urrutia signed the order, which bars the state House sergeant at arms, the Texas Department of Public Safety, Capitol Police and other law enforcement from restricting, detaining or confining the lawmakers. The order allows them to safely return to the Lone Star State.

The move also comes amid a continuing effort by Democrats to deny Republicans in the state's lower chamber a quorum to vote on an elections overhaul bill. Democrats and voting rights activists say that the bill could lead to voter suppression.

A quorum is formed when 100 members of the state legislature are present in the chamber. 

Among its provisions, the bill limits the use of ballot drop boxes, which were used heavily during the coronavirus pandemic. It also bans around-the-clock voting centers, voting facilities in outdoor structures and straight ticket voting.

Earlier in the summer during the legislature's first special session, a group of Texas Democrats fled the state to Washington, D.C., to deny the Lone Star State's GOP a quorum. At the time, Abbott vowed to arrest Democrats when they reentered the state. 

While in D.C., the Democrats met with several high profile Democrats such as Vice President Harris, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). 

The trip sparked concerns, however, after several members of the caucus tested positive for COVID-19. 

Phelan signed the first arrest warrant for Rep. Philip Cortez (D) in late July.

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