The majority of the Democrats fleeing Texas are flying to Washington, DC, on two chartered jets. They have kept planning secret because they can be legally compelled to return to the Capitol and believed law enforcement could be sent to track them down, the sources said.
Their move places Texas at the heart of the national fight over voting rights, with GOP state lawmakers turning former President Donald Trump’s lies about widespread voting fraud into a push for new laws that limit mail-in voting, early voting and more.
Already this year, Republican-controlled states including Florida, Georgia and Iowa have enacted restrictive new voting laws. Democrats in Congress have pushed measures that would expand access to the ballot box nationwide — but GOP opposition in the Senate has kept them from clearing the 60-vote threshold necessary to break a filibuster.
In Texas, minority House Democrats walked out of the final hours of this year’s legislative session, blocking Republicans from approving Senate Bill 7 — the controversial measure that would have made casting mail-in ballots harder; banned drive-thru voting centers and 24-hour voting — tactics Harris County, the home of Houston, used in the 2020 election; empowered poll watchers, made it easier for courts to overturn election results; effectively outlawed Black churches’ “souls to the polls” get out the vote push and more.
Abbott, the Republican governor who is seeking a third term in 2022, called a 30-day special legislative session, saying that “election integrity” would be one of his priorities. Majority Republicans in the House and Senate in recent days unveiled bills that closely mirrored SB 7.
State House and Senate committees advanced those bills after hearing opposition in hours-long hearings over the weekend.
The Democrats’ move raises questions about their objectives — whether they are seeking to block any new voting laws altogether or push Republicans to strip their measures of what Democrats see as the most objectionable elements — and how Republicans will try to force Democrats back into the House.
This story has been updated with additional developments Monday.