The national debate over voting laws is very much in the spotlight again Tuesday, and not only because President Biden plans to address the topic in a speech in Philadelphia. Democratic lawmakers in Texas remained holed up in DC after fleeing the state to prevent new restrictions from going into place. Coverage:
- The walkout: More than 50 Democrats boarded two planes and flew out of Austin on Monday, a move that deprives the Republican majority in the state House of a quorum and thus temporarily stops them from passing new voting laws, reports the Texas Tribune. Democrats say they're prepared to stay away for weeks, until the current special session ends.
- Governor's threat: "As soon as they come back in the state of Texas, they will be arrested," GOP Gov. Greg Abbott tells KVUE. He said the lawmakers would be "cabined inside the Texas Capitol until they get their job done." Abbott's comments reflect a common sentiment in coverage: State Democrats can gum up the vote, but they don't have a permanent way to block new legislation. Abbott, for example, can keep calling special sessions. (State Democrats have done this before.)
- The changes: Texas Republicans are looking to put several new rules into place, including bans on 24-hour polling places and ballot drop boxes, and new ID requirements that could curb mail voting. They would also give more power to partisan poll watchers, per the AP.
- No. 18: Texas would be the 18th state to enact new voting rules like those above, per the Brennan Center for Justice. Republicans say it's all about improving election security, while Democrats accuse them of trying to depress Democratic turnout.
- The impact: It's difficult to gauge the impact of all this, per the Morning newsletter of the New York Times. "The laws certainly have the potential to accomplish their goal of reducing Democratic turnout more than Republican turnout," reads the analysis. "In closely divided states like Arizona, Florida or Georgia—or in a swing congressional district—even a small effect could determine an election." However, the piece cites an analysis by Bill Scher at Real Clear Politics, who writes: “The Republican intent behind restrictive election laws may be nefarious, but the impact to date has been negligible." Much will depend on the severity of restrictions to come. The ones in Texas appear to be stronger than most.
- Strategy: The Democrats who fled to DC say they want to convince Congress to pass federal legislation to supersede state laws and protect access to the polls. "This is the fight of our lives," says state Rep. Jessica Gonzalez, per the Dallas Morning News. So far, no White House meeting is in the cards. State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer says he is using his own campaign funds to help pay for hotels for the lawmakers.
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