State Watch

Texas Senate passes voting restrictions after Democrat’s 15-hour filibuster

The Texas state Senate on Thursday morning voted to advance a sweeping GOP-backed elections bill after a 15-hour filibuster by a Democratic senator who attempted to block the measure. 

The Texas Tribune reported that the GOP-controlled Senate advanced the measure that critics contend will curtail voting rights on an 18-11 party-line vote. It is the latest iteration of the elections bill that Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and state GOP lawmakers have repeatedly attempted to pass in the legislature’s regular session and an initial special session. 

The version passed Thursday in the latest special session is less restrictive than previous versions, but still calls for prohibiting drive-thru and 24-hour voting, and requiring poll watchers to receive a training manual from the Texas secretary of state. 

Senate Democratic Caucus Chair Carol Alvarado stood on her feet overnight into Thursday morning to attempt to block the measure. 

The Democrat wore running shoes and Senate rules forbade her from sitting, eating, drinking or taking bathroom breaks throughout her filibuster, during which she railed against the GOP-backed bill. 

As she concluded her filibuster shortly before 9 a.m. local time, Alvarado, who wore a back brace from the time she first stepped onto the floor at 5:50 p.m. Wednesday evening, said, “My friends, voter suppression anywhere is a threat to democracy everywhere.” 

“As we draw this discussion to an end, it is my sincere hope that civil acts by everyday Texans, from the Senate floor to the ballot box, can help to shed the light on all important issues,” she added, according to the Tribune. “What do we want our democracy to look like?”

Alvarado, who used her speaking time to recount the history of movements to secure voting rights in the U.S., said at the beginning of her filibuster Wednesday, “Senate Bill 1 slowly but surely chips away at our democracy.” 

“It adds rather than removes barriers for Texas seniors, persons with disabilities, African Americans, Asian and Latino voters from the political process,” she argued. 

Despite her efforts to block the bill, the filibuster ultimately only delayed passage, with attention turning once again to the House, where Democrats have repeatedly avoided showing up to the state Capitol in Austin to prevent the chamber from reaching a quorum needed to vote on legislation. 

On Wednesday, Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan (R) signed arrest warrants for Democratic lawmakers who fled the state to Washington, D.C., in July to block the passage of the voting bill. 

The Texas House sergeant-at-arms, Michael Black, distributed the 52 civil arrest warrants shortly after, though a judge approved a writ of habeas corpus Wednesday allowing state Rep. Gene Wu (D) to avoid the warrant under the argument that it was unconstitutional.

Tags elections bill Filibuster Texas House Texas Senate Texas Tribune Texas voting bill voting restrictions voting rights legislation

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