Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has taken a strong stand against Texas Democrats who have left the state to avoid voting on election security legislation.
“I will keep calling special sessions until Democrats come back. There’s no jurisdiction for Texas law enforcement to make arrests of the Texas Democrats in D.C., but they can make arrests of the Democrats once they return to the state.
“And what, I then as governor, will do is, I will continue to call a special session, after the special session, after special session every single month until we address and vote on these bills,” said Abbott.
This response came after Texas Democrats fled the state and remained camped out in Washington D.C. to avoid voting on GOP-supported elections legislation.
Abbott has said he has no intention of negotiating with Democrats because he says criticism of the bill is “bogus.”
The bill bans drive-thru and 24-hour voting, increases poll watcher access, prohibits election officials from sending unsolicited applications to request mail-in ballots, and sets new voter identification requirements for absentee voters.
“This doesn’t have anything to do with denying people the right to vote,” Abbott insisted.
When Democrat lawmakers left Texas it denied House Republicans a quorum, leaving lawmakers in the House unable to conduct business.
Democrats argue that the voting legislation could make it more difficult for marginalized voters to vote by increasing access for poll watchers who could intimidate voters.
They also believe additional barriers to the ballot box have been erected, such as restriction on voting by mail and an end to drive-thru voting.
Many of the hotly contested provisions of the bill have been eliminated, including limiting early voting hours on Sundays and giving judges greater power to overturn elections.
Democrats have said they would be willing to negotiate if Abbott backs away from his veto of funding for the legislature, including staff salaries.
Abbott argued that withdrawing a veto is not possible. “You can’t withdraw a veto, and the budget has already been passed and is law without the funding in there for the legislature,” he stated.
The Texas Senate recently approved funding for the legislature but, absent House Democrats present to do the same, it cannot proceed.
“The Democrats, they’re going to have to show up if they’re going to fund the legislature because there is no withdrawing a veto about a law that is already in effect,” Abbott said.
House votes to arrest Democrats
The Texas House recently voted to send the sergeant-at-arms to Washington D.C. to round up the Democrat legislators who did not attend the governor’s special session.
Dozens of House Democrats left Texas for D.C. to break the quorum and stop all votes in the House. Democrats claim that they left to prevent a vote on election legislation they consider “voter suppression.”
With only 80 of the 150 present, the Texas House lacks enough legislators to conduct business. This prompted a “Call of the House” motion, which compels all House members to appear in the chamber.
Those who do not appear are subject to arrest.
“The sergeant-at-arms and any officer appointed by him are directed to send for all absentees whose attendance is not excused for the purpose of maintaining their attendance under warrant of arrest, if necessary,” explained House Speaker Dade Phelan.
The impact of the move to arrest remains unclear. Texas law enforcement has no jurisdiction in the nation’s capital. Nevertheless, Abbott maintains that he plans to get the bill passed “one way or another.”