Texas Supreme Court rules fleeing Democrats can be arrested

The Texas Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that Democrats who left the Capitol to deny the legislature the quorum needed for an elections bill can be arrested.

The court also ruled that lower courts rescind temporary restraining orders that blocked the arrests of Texas House Democrats.

The order is significant because it indicates that it is constitutional in Texas to require members of the legislature to return to the state Capitol, which can include compelling members by arrest, the Texas Tribune reported. 

“The legal question before this Court concerns only whether the Texas Constitution gives the House of Representatives the authority to physically compel the attendance of absent members. We conclude that it does, and we therefore direct the district court to withdraw the TRO,” Justice Jimmy Blacklock said in the state Supreme Court’s opinion, according to KXAN Austin. 

Earlier this summer, Texas House Democrats fled Texas to deny the lower chamber the quorum needed to vote on an election bill that critics say would curb voting access in the state. One hundred members need to be present in order for a quorum to be formed.

If passed, the GOP-backed legislation would ban around-the-clock voting centers, straight ticket voting and voting facilities in outdoor structures. The use of ballot drop boxes would also be limited under the bill.

House Speaker Dade Phelan (R) had signed arrest warrants for the 52 Democrats in an effort to compel them back to the state House, but those arrest warrants were temporarily shielded by lower court rulings.

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