Texas Democrats continue to stall vote on new election law

Texas Democrats on Saturday again denied Republicans in the state House a quorum necessary to start a second special legislative session, which Gov. Greg Abbott (R) called this week in his latest attempt to pass a GOP-backed election bill aiming to impose sweeping voting restrictions.

The exact whereabouts of the more than 50 House Democrats who fled the state to Washington, D.C., last month in protest of the elections bill was not clear on Saturday, but The Associated Press reported that not enough lawmakers showed in person on Saturday in Austin to conduct official business.

“A quorum is not present,” Republican state House Speaker Dade Phelan said Saturday afternoon before adjourning the chamber until Monday, according to the AP. 

Abbott earlier this week had called for a new special session to begin on Saturday, a day after the first special session expired with no movement in the House on the GOP voting bill. 

The legislation, which was passed by the GOP-led state Senate last month, calls for the implementation of several new restrictions on voting in Texas, including banning around-the-clock voting centers, voting facilities in outdoor structures such as parking garages and straight-ticket voting. 

The bill also calls for limits on the use of drop boxes, which were used heavily during the coronavirus pandemic as more people voted with absentee ballots rather than going in person to polling centers to cast their votes. 

Democrats have condemned the proposal, arguing that the measures unfairly target minority voters and those with disabilities. 

Abbott, who has threatened to continue calling special sessions until the voting bill is passed, wrote in a tweet Thursday announcing the second special session that the Texas legislature “must finish the work that was started.” 

Texas Democrats have not made any firm commitments on how they plan to move forward in opposing the GOP bill, with the possibility that the lawmakers could return to the state Capitol before the conclusion of the second session, which is scheduled to last for 30 days. 

The state lawmakers have said that any move would largely depend on progress in ongoing efforts to assist Congress in passing federal voting rights legislation, which continues to face opposition through a Senate Republican filibuster. 

These efforts were complicated when a group of Democrats who fled to the nation’s capital tested positive for COVID-19, fueling safety concerns, especially amid the rapid spread of the highly contagious delta variant.

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