The Texas legislature's special session came to a close on Friday 8/6/21. Texas Governor Greg Abbott said, "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. Passing these Special Session agenda items will chart a course towards a stronger and brighter future for the Lone Star State."
Texas House Democrats left the state on July 12th, breaking quorum. The House must have 2/3 of its members, or 100 of the 150, to debate and/or vote on bills. Chris Turner, the Grand Prairie Democrat who leads the party’s caucus in the House, indicated there was no immediate plan for the group of Democrats to return home.
Turner said, “We’re discussing what’s next. 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 Governor Greg Abbott in his next primary election.”
Following the Democrats' departure, the House voted overwhelmingly to issue a “call of the House” in an effort to regain quorum, sending law enforcement after them, though the effort has no reach beyond state lines. Democrats can either return to Austin, return to Texas but remain in their districts (risking arrest), stay in D.C., or go to another state.
Spokesman for Speaker Phelan, Enrique Marquez said, “Special session will begin anew on Saturday and the bipartisan group of members who stayed in Texas look forward to being joined by their House colleagues to address the items on the call, including relief for retired teachers, improving the foster care system, and addressing election integrity.”
Turner said, “When we left nearly four weeks ago we set out a clear goal, which was to kill the bill this session and use the time productively here in Washington to urge passage of federal voting rights legislation.” GOP leaders in Texas are not likely to tweak their proposals. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick said, “The elections bill will eventually pass pretty much in the form that’s in.”
The bill would require ID for people voting by mail and prohibit election officials from sending a vote-by-mail application to someone who hasn't requested one. It would also ban drive-thru voting and extended hours during early voting.
Senior staff attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project, James Slattery said "Voters of color and shift workers benefited the most from these methods of voting last year. And so you can consider the bans on those forms of voting to be a direct attack on voters of color in particular."
The bill also expands what partisan poll watchers can observe during elections and prohibits poll watchers from being removed. It will also require that people fill out paperwork if they are taking someone who is not a relative to vote in person. And they require people to exit a car if there is someone voting curbside in that vehicle.
State Rep Travis Clardy said he has "zero doubt about the legitimacy of elections in the state. This is a preventative measure for us. We do have and heard testimony throughout our session of problems of voter irregularities, of voter fraud, of cases currently being investigated. It is an issue. It is a real thing. But I think it's our job to make sure that doesn't blossom into a problem."
Slattery rebutted, "There isn't any election security benefit to nearly any of these provisions."