Texas voting rights saga suggests Democrats are playing a losing game
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(Reuters) – Thousands of Americans rallied across the country on Saturday to demand protection of voting rights amid a nationwide conservative campaign that this year culminates in a wave of voting restrictions in ruled states by Republicans.
Two days later, the Texas Republicans won the most controversial and longest-running battle to date in our nearly one-year nationwide showdown over access to the ballot – the most fundamental of Democratic rights. The Texas legislature on Tuesday sent a list of voting restrictions, which will almost certainly impose a disproportionate burden on minority voters, to the office of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who is expected to sign the bill.
Legislators’ approval of the final draft of the bill marks the end of a remarkable legislative saga, including an incredible moment in which the Speaker of the Republican House of Texas asked his colleagues to refrain from mention the elephant in the room. “The president would appreciate it if members did not use the word ‘racism’ this afternoon,” Dade Phelan said during the House debate Thursday on Senate Bill 1.
Phelan’s request was extraordinary, Joshua Blank, research director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin, told me.
“Telling other duly elected members who represent Texans not to talk about a topic that is very relevant to the bill, and in a legislative body where there is a First Amendment right specifically for political speech – that was right. cheeky and incomprehensible, ”Blank said. . “Given the conversations we have in our society, it is quite presumptuous for the white president of Texas House to tell a group of predominantly black and brown representatives not to mention racism when discussing a draft. elections law, and in a state that the courts have repeatedly engaged in racial discrimination. ”
Phelan’s office did not respond to requests for comment for this column.
The bill includes measures banning 24-hour polling stations, preventing officials from sending unsolicited postal ballot requests, and empowering observers who are supporters of the poll.
Democrats used almost every tool at their disposal to block the bill, forcing two special legislative sessions, fleeing the state and facing the distant and temporary prospect of an arrest. Still, it will be more difficult to vote in the next Texas election than in the last ones, and the Democrats’ last option, I salute you, is to look to a judiciary that has already signaled its broad agreement with the Republican agenda on the right to vote.
Overall, the path taken by legislation to the governor’s office portends a bleak future for voting rights and a potentially even more divided and bleak era in national politics.
Even before passing Senate Bill 1, Texas had restricted the right to vote in other recent laws, including a provision that made it more difficult to obtain mail-in ballots for medical reasons.
The bill has been denounced as part of the racist legacy of the suppression of American voters by a series of advocacy groups and Texas Democrats.
Republicans across the country pushed for similar “electoral integrity” legislation, citing false claims by former President Donald Trump that fraud caused his defeat in the 2020 election. no substantial allegations of fraud in last year’s Texas election, which saw Republicans maintain their three-decade grip on all state offices, Reuters reported on May 31.
Democrats blocked the first iteration of the Texas bill in May, denying Republicans the necessary quorum during a dramatic walkout during the closing hours of the regular session of the legislature.
But Abbott has pledged to call 30-day special sessions until the bill passes – and has done so twice.
Democrats fled chambers again in July, fleeing to Washington, DC, where they tried to gain attention and support, Reuters reported on August 27.
Lawmakers crouched in a downtown hotel, unable to bathe because Republicans posted a videographer on the pool deck to capture all the moments of leisure – which could be described as a violation of their pledge to spend time working, The New York Times reported. Friday.
Eventually, House Speaker Phelan issued arrest warrants for his 52 fellow Democrats, under rules allowing civilian arrests of absent lawmakers in the state.
The walkout lasted nearly six weeks. But some boycotters returned to the floor of the State House at the end of August (much to the chagrin of other Democratic refractories).
A heated debate lasting several hours then began last Thursday.
At one point, Representative Andrew Murr, the author of the bill, said he did not “necessarily believe that fraud was a prerequisite for the implementation of good policy”. does not have the role of facilitating or encouraging the vote.
Ultimately, the bill passed 80-41, although Democrats nearly exhausted their options, Reuters reported.
The only ruling remaining is an awaited trial, but legal experts broadly agree that the Supreme Court – which has paved the way for new voting restrictions – is inclined to leave many of the new laws in place, Reuters reported on Tuesday.
None of this bodes well considering that Republicans have also blocked federal voting rights legislation and 17 more states have passed voting restrictions this year, according to the Brennan Center for Justice of New York University.
“What’s going on in Texas mirrors a lot of what’s going on in the country, which is that we’re at a pretty big inflection point, and it’s really race-driven,” said Blank, noting that Texas was in the majority. Minority state for a while.
“How these changes are advocated in Texas will say a lot about that country’s future policy, as either Texas will remain the most diverse and urbanized state ruled by Republicans or it will come under Democratic and Republican control. will become a minority party nationwide, ”he said, as their party needs to win the votes of Texans to maintain an advantage in the constituency and federal elections.
Texas’ all-out legislative struggle points the wrong way forward, no matter what the scenario. And the results, so far, are a worrying sign for the voting rights of non-white Americans across the country and for national politics.
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The opinions expressed are those of the author. They do not reflect the views of Reuters News, which, under the principles of trust, is committed to respecting integrity, independence and freedom from bias.