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Texas Democrats flee state in effort to block GOP-backed voting restrictions legislation

Dozens of Democratic members of the Texas House of Representatives fled the state on Monday in an attempt to prevent quorum and block Republicans from passing new voting restrictions, according to the Texas Tribune.

Why it matters: Breaking quorum to prevent legislation from advancing is rare, and the representatives risk being arrested and forced to return to the Capitol if state Republicans ask the Texas Department of Public Safety to track them down.

  • Instead of attending a special legislative session, many of the representatives flew on chartered planes to Washington, D.C., where they will rally for federal voting legislation.

My Democratic colleagues and I are leaving the state to break quorum and kill the Texas voter suppression bill.

We’re flying to DC to demand Congress pass the For The People Act and save our democracy.

Good trouble. #txlege

— James Talarico (@jamestalarico) July 12, 2021

Flashback: More than 50 Texas House Democrats left the state in 2003 to block a redistricting proposal supported by Republicans, though the effort ultimately failed.

Texas House Democrats also briefly broke quorum in May to block the passage of a sweeping restrictive voting bill right before the end of the regular session.

  • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in turn vetoed funding for the legislature and requested a special session, which started July 8.
  • Committees in both chambers of the legislature advanced two sweeping bills Sunday that would reform numerous aspects of the state's election system, including banning certain forms of voting, heavily restricting other forms and adding new identification requirements.

What they're saying: “Today, Texas House Democrats stand united in our decision to break quorum and refuse to let the Republican-led legislature force through dangerous legislation that would trample on Texans’ freedom to vote," reads a statement authored by state Democratic leaders. “We are now taking the fight to our nation’s Capitol. We are living on borrowed time in Texas."

What's next: To block the legislation, the lawmakers will have to stay away for the remainder of the special session.

  • But Abbott "could continue to call 30-day sessions or add voting restrictions to the agenda when the Legislature takes on the redrawing of the state’s political maps later this summer," the Texas Tribune notes.

Go deeper: Lawyers, advocates reeling from SCOTUS voting rights decision

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