Contributed by Gabbie Burton
Everything is bigger in Texas…including partisan conflicts. This past Monday, Texas Democrats left the state and flew to D.C. ahead of a special session vote on new, Republican-backed voting legislation. The bills - House Bill 3 and Senate Bill 1- aim to prevent voter fraud and increase election integrity according to the Republicans. Democrats believe the bills to be yet another attempt at voter suppression.
The purpose of the move is to block a quorum, the fewest number of legislatures present in order to make the proceeding valid. The Texas state Democrats successfully killed a version of the legislation through this same tactic back in May. However, it appears they will have a more difficult experience this time around.
On Tuesday, Texas House Republicans voted to send law enforcement to find and potentially arrest the runaway Democrats. This, while it may be shocking, is allowed. The Texas State Constitution states that the remaining legislatures may, “compel the attendance of absent members, in such manner and under such penalties as each House may provide.” This will be difficult considering Texas law enforcement does not have jurisdiction in Washington D.C., but the message is still clear.
The threat of arrest isn’t the only problem facing Texas Democrats in this move of defiance. The special session that they are avoiding is set to last the next three weeks. With limited funds and homes back in Texas, it will take dedicated support and all of their commitment to the cause in order to stay in Washington D.C.
With this partisan drama taking the forefront, it's easy to lose sight of the full impact these voting bills have. The bills would ban drive-thru voting, unless due to a disability, ban 24-hour voting, increase protection for partisan poll watchers and create monthly citizenship checks on voter rolls, among other things. If we had consistent and overwhelming fraud in our elections, some provisions, maybe not these, but some would be considered reasonable. However, there is no evidence to support that there is widespread, or even small amounts of fraud in American elections. To the legislators who are spearheading this effort: by introducing provisions to solve a problem that does not exist, you are making new ones. You are silencing and suppressing the voice of the people. Not everyone has the privilege to step away from their work or families for hours at a time and wait in line at a far away polling place because the other locations in their community were closed, and this is the only one left. Not everybody can get a ride to a polling place or knows where to find a mail-in-ballot that has been restricted so well. But you already knew all that. That’s why you cried wolf about voter fraud in the first place. You don’t care about voter fraud. You care about power, and you'll do whatever it takes to keep it.
If you are angered by these voter suppression tactics that are on the rise all across the country, contact your representatives and take a stance against these dangerous and discriminatory laws. Support the “For the People Act” and support the eradication of the filibuster. Find ways to spread the word on these issues and talk to your friends about voting and civic engagement. This is something that is going to take constant diligence and effort but it is an issue that is at the crux of American democracy and must be faced now.
Brennan Center for Justice. “The Myth of Voter Fraud.” The Brennan Center,
“Quorum.” Dictionary.com, https://dictionary.com/browse/quorum. Accessed 17 July 2021.
Riccardi, Nicholas. “EXPLAINER: What’s in the Texas GOP’s voting bills?” Associated Press,
14 July 2021, https://apnews.com/article/health-government-and-politics-texas-voting-coronavirus-pandemic-9bc36a6e8c967757340ab25f49b8ddbf. Accessed 17 July 2021.
Texas State Constitution. Art. III, Sec. 10. statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/CN/htm/CN.3.htm.
Accessed 16 July 2021.