Like a serial murderer in a horror movie, the Texas voter suppression bill will not die. The state’s Republican lawmakers will hold a third special session of the legislature in the hopes of passing a law that would severely restrict voting in the state, along with a slate of other conservative priorities. Meanwhile, many Texas Democrats remain in the nation’s capital after fleeing the state to prevent the House from reaching quorum, the minimum number of members who need to be present in order to vote on legislation, a last-resort effort to block the voting bill.
Gov. Greg Abbott this week announced the new special session of the legislature scheduled to begin Saturday at noon. The governor laid out the legislative priorities of the session with a 17-item agenda, much of which reads like a conservative wishlist. On the list is the election bill, which would make it limit voting hours and locations and restrict vote-by-mail. It would also introduce criminal penalties for election officials who do not allow partisan poll watchers access to watch ballots being counted and make it easier for a judge to overturn an election.
Other priorities on Abbott’s agenda include bills that would ban transgender children from participating in sports, prevent critical race theory from being taught in Texas classrooms, create legal recourse for people kicked off of social media platforms, and implement bail reform that Democrats say would disproportionately affect black and Latino arrestees and lead to more overcrowding of jails in the state. Abbott also listed a bill “relating to legislative quorum requirements,” hinting Republicans may be searching for a way to proceed with votes without Democrats by changing the rules of the legislature around quorum.
“I will continue to call special session after special session to reform our broken bail system, uphold election integrity, and pass other important items that Texans demand and deserve,” Abbott said in a statement accompanying the agenda.
Thus far the more than 50 Democrats who flew to D.C. in July, where they have been advocating for a federal law to shore up voting rights, have not announced their next move. As long as they remain outside of Texas, they are not within state law enforcement’s jurisdiction to force them to return.
“We’re discussing what’s next,” State Rep. Chris Turner, the Democratic leader in the House, told the Texas Tribune. “What is certain is that our caucus is unified in continuing to fight against these anti-voter bills and all these other unnecessary red meat issues that are simply designed to help [Abbott] in his next primary election.”