Sh*t Went DOWN In Texas Lege This Weekend
Yeah, they were gonna make it illegal to give people rides to go vote.
I'd like to believe that late Sunday night, on some cosmic plane, Ann Richards and Molly Ivins were high-fiving each other when Democrats walked out of the Texas House chamber shortly before midnight, temporarily killing Republicans' terrible voter-suppression bill. Yes, of course it's going to come back and pass in a special session some time later this summer, but the point is that, for a while at least, we won't be seeing Greg Abbott smugly signing the bill into law and lying about how he's protecting the "integrity" of the vote.
And who knows, there's even the slimmest of chances that the US Senate might pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, although for that to happen, our secular prayers for the enlightenment of Joe Manchin would have to be answered. After Republicans shafted Manchin's bipartisan fantasy on the January 6 Commission, we'd like to hope he may yet realize that saving democracy and saving the filibuster are in fact two different things.
Texas Senate Bill 7, which was written behind closed doors by Republican state senators, aimed to prevent a repeat of 2020's record voter turnout, even though Donald Trump won the state and John Cornyn (R) held his US Senate seat. It would have prohibited a number of measures that increased turnout among Black and Latino voters, particularly in Harris County, the state's largest county and home to Houston. It would have banned after-hours voting, drive-through voting, absentee ballot drop boxes, and the 24-hour voting centers that Harris County set up. Partisan poll watchers would be granted more power to nose around at voting sites, although the bill still generously allowed voters to mark their ballots privately.
It also took aim at "Souls to the Polls" voting drives that have been popular with Black churches, in which people would take buses or car pool to the polls right after church services, by banning voting before 1 p.m. on Sundays and requiring that anyone who drove more than two non-relatives to a polling place would have to sign a form explaining why they were giving other people a ride. (Hey, at least the current version of the law didn't require those reasons to be approved by state officials, oh shit, I've given them ideas.)
And despite the lack of any widespread fraud, the bill would have required people voting by mail to provide a driver's license or Social Security number, as well as made it a felony for voting officials to send out absentee ballot request forms to anyone who hadn't asked for one. It would even have imposed more stringent standards for someone to request an absentee ballot because of a disability.
No, Texas Republicans were not brimming with examples of people committing fraud by not being quite disabled enough. Assuming that provision survives into the special session, you can expect disability rights groups to join in on the lawsuits once this dog's breakfast passes in a special session. (Today would be a nice day to send a check, if you can, to the ACLU of Texas, Common Cause Texas, or NAACP Legal Defense Fund .)
Oh, yes, and on top of all that, SB 7 would have made it easier for elections to be overturned in court, just in case a Democrat accidentally got more votes anyway.
The Texas Senate rushed the bill through on Saturday, and it headed for easy passage in the House Sunday night. But with an hour left before a final voting deadline and all their parliamentary delaying tactics used up, House Democrats headed for the exits, leaving the 150-member body without the two-thirds needed for a quorum.
"Leave the chamber discreetly. Do not go to the gallery. Leave the building," Grand Prairie state Rep. Chris Turner, the chair of the House Democratic Caucus, said in a text message to other Democrats obtained by The Texas Tribune.
About 30 Democratic House members met at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in East Austin for a press conference, while Republicans started crying about what a shame it was that the Democrats had refused to do the people's business by letting Republicans do their business all over voting rights.
In a Sunday-night tweet, Abbott promised a special session for the "voter integrity" bill, as well as for a similarly awful "bail reform" measure that would make it substantially harder for people to bond out of jail. It too was left unfinished when the Democrats walked out. Monday, Abbott escalated his hissy fit, insisting he would defund the state legislature via line-item veto. In a tweet, he said, "No pay for those who abandon their responsibilities. Stay tuned."
So that's real mature, and sure to be welcome news to the Republican majority in the Lege. The pay for Texas legislators is $600 a month, for $7,200 a year, plus a $221 per diem while the Lege is in session.
Oh, and the budget line Abbott plans to veto only applies to the coming fiscal year, beginning September 1. He showed them! We suspect that once the Republicans steamroll the voter suppression and bail-"reform" bills, they'll also restore funding for the next legislative session, too. Especially if they can figure out how to only fund Republican members' pay.
And we'll leave you with a thought from Saint Molly:
"The thing about democracy, beloveds, is that it is not neat, orderly, or quiet. It requires a certain relish for confusion."
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