AUSTIN – A bill to overhaul voting rules in the state failed to pass in the Texas House on Sunday night in a victory for Democrats and voting rights advocates. Sunday was the last day of the legislative session that the bill, Senate Bill 7, could have been passed, but it may be brought up again in the future.
SB7 failed to pass in the Texas House because a group of House Democrats walked out of the legislature, causing the House to lose quorum — in order for certain procedures to take place, such as passing legislation, a certain number of House members must be present — blocking Republicans from passing the bill despite their majority. Birnel said that was all made possible by the work of organizers.
The bill would place limits on early voting hours, drive-thru voting, and tighten restrictions on who can vote by mail. It would also expand the role that poll watchers can play, including allowing them to be closer to the polls and to record certain voters.
Republicans have called it a measure to ensure election integrity, despite the lack of evidence for widespread election fraud — the outgoing Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs told lawmakers earlier in the year that Texas’ election in 2020 was “smooth and secure.” Democrats and voting rights organizations have derided the bill as an attempt at voter suppression that would disproportionately harm racial and ethnic minorities.
Gov. Greg Abbott has already said he will convene a special session of the Texas legislature in the coming months to reconsider SB7, among other pieces of legislation, so the bill could still be passed.
“Ensuring the integrity of our elections and reforming a broken bail system remain emergencies in Texas,” Abbott’s statement said. “They will be added to the special session agenda. Legislators will be expected to have worked out the details when they arrive at the Capitol for the special session.”
Abbott went further on Monday, saying he intends to withhold paychecks to state lawmakers after House Democrats staged the walkout to block voting restrictions proposed by their Republican counterparts.
“This is a reckoning over two strategies,” Alex Birnel said. “One strategy is to suppress the vote to sustain power, and the other strategy is for millions of people to participate in our democracy and for that participation to transform the entire country for the better.”