State Watch

Texas House Democrats sue state leaders over arrest threats

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More than 20 Texas House Democrats filed a lawsuit against three Republicans on Friday, claiming their constitutional rights were violated when GOP leaders attempted to bring them back to the state to hold a vote on an elections bill during a special session.

The 22 Texas House Democrats filed a lawsuit against Gov. Greg Abbott (R), House Speaker Dade Phelan (R) and state Rep. James White (R) alleging that some of its members were targeted due to their race, The Texas Tribune reported

However, the lawsuit does not specify what discriminatory acts they may be referring to or include any evidence.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs additionally claimed that they “had been deprived of liberty for substantial periods of time, suffered much anxiety and distress over the separation from their families, and much discomfort and embarrassment.”

In mid-July, Texas Democrats fled the state to Washington, D.C., to deny a quorum needed to vote on a GOP-backed bill that critics claim would undercut voting access in the state. The state Senate passed the bill last month.

The remainder of the Texas House voted in July to authorize law enforcement to track down the absent members.

If signed into law, the bill would limit the use of drop boxes and ban around-the-clock voting centers, among other provisions.

White told The Hill that he believed he had been named as a part of the lawsuit because he had asked state Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) for his opinion regarding where lawmakers had the constitutional right to break quorum and whether it impacts the “constitutional provisions of vacating offices.”

“There will be no lawsuit. There will be no lawyers. There will be no one that will silence me, and in particular, I will not allow anyone to intimidate and silence the people of Texas,” White said.

On Saturday, the Democrats were again nowhere to be found as Abbott called for a second special legislative session over the bill, denying the Republicans a quorum again.

According to The Texas Tribune, at least two Texas House Democrats appeared to signal that they had not requested or authorized the lawsuit. 

“I did not request, review or authorize the filing,” state Rep. Shawn Thierry (D-Texas) said in a statement on Saturday, according to the Tribune. 

The Hill has reached out to Phelan and Abbott for comment.

Tags election bill Texas voting rights

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