Democrats pulled off a dramatic, last-ditch walkout in the Texas House of Representatives on Sunday night to block one of the most restrictive voting laws in the U.S. from passing before a midnight deadline.
The sudden revolt torpedoed the sweeping measure known as Senate Bill 7, which would have reduced polling hours, empowered poll watchers and scaled back ways to vote in Texas, which is already has some of the nation’s strictest voting laws.
For Democrats, the victory may be fleeting: Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who had declared new voting laws in Texas a priority, quickly announced that he would order lawmakers back to the state Capitol for a special session. He did not, however, say when that would happen.
“We’ve said for so many years that we want more people to participate in our democracy. And it just seems that’s not the case,” Democratic state Rep. Carl Sherman said.
Less than 24 hours earlier, the bill seemed all but guaranteed to reach Abbott’s desk. The Texas Senate had approved the measure in a vote before sunrise, after Republicans used a bare-knuckle procedural move to suspend the rules and take up the measure in the middle of the night during the Memorial Holiday weekend.
But as the night wore on in the House, the GOP’s chances wobbled. About two hours before the midnight deadline, Democrats began filing out of the chamber in greater and greater numbers, denying Republicans the quorum necessary to hold a final vote. The walkout handed Republicans a rare defeat in the Texas Capitol where they control every lever of power and wield overwhelming majorities in both the House and Senate.