Texas Democrats fail to show up to state legislature and file lawsuit against Republican governor over voting bill

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Texas Democrats fled the state last month to protest new voting legislation (Getty Images)
Texas Democrats fled the state last month to protest new voting legislation (Getty Images)

Texas Democrats have again failed to show up to the state Capitol as Republicans began their third attempt at passing new voting laws.

It prolonged a monthslong standoff that escalated in July when 50 Democratic state lawmakers fled the state and hunkered down in Washington DC.

“A quorum is not present,” Republican House Speaker Dade Phelan said Saturday afternoon. Just minutes later, he adjourned the chamber until Monday, the Associated Press reported.

The delay came as 22 of the Texas House Democrats who fled the state last month to protest voter suppression laws launched a lawsuit against Republican Governor Greg Abbott.

They alleged that Republican efforts to force them back to return to Texas had infringed on their constitutional rights.

The 22 plaintiffs claim they have been “deprived of liberty for substantial periods of time”, suffered much anxiety and distress over separation from their families, and much discomfort and embarrassment, the complaint filed on Friday, and obtained by the Texas Tribune, alleges.

Gov Abbott, Speaker Phelan and State Rep James White are all named as defendants in the case.

The lawsuit alleges that the three Republicans have “by public statements and otherwise, to attempt to deny, coerce, threaten, intimidate, and prevent” the Democrats and constituents from voting in elections, speaking publicly about their constitutional rights, and their right to not being arrested without probable cause.

The suit comes after Gov Abbott called for the arrests of more than 50 Texas House Democrats who fled the state in July for the nation’s capital, in a bid to stop a Republican-backed voter integrity bill from passing in a special legislative session.

It was the second time that Texas Democrats staged a walkout on the voting bill, and left the state’s House of Representatives without a quorum to pass the bill.

Under the bill, Texas would ban 24-hour polling locations, drive-thru voting and give partisan poll watchers more access under the bill that Republicans were on the brink of passing in May.

But that effort was foiled by Democrats abruptly leaving the Capitol building in Austin in a late-night walkout.

Democrats made a bigger gambit – by decamping to Washington DC on chartered jets – to run out the clock on the GOP’s second try.

Democrats had hoped to exert pressure on President Joe Biden and Congress to pass federal voting rights legislation, but a Senate Republican filibuster continues to block such a measure.

The Associated Press contributed to the report