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Texas voting restrictions: why are Democrats blocking this bill?

The Republican-led state has been trying to pass a new bill that they say will lead to less voter fraud while Democrats argue that it will restrict the right to vote.

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Texas voting restrictions: why are Democrats blocking this bill?
Evelyn Hockstein Reuters

The Democrats in the Texas House of Representatives flew to Washington D.C. on Monday, preventing a Republican bill to restrict voter rights from passing. The legislature needs a minimum number of members present to vote on any motion, called a quorum, so the Democrat evasion stopped the motion.

Why do Democrats oppose the bill?

Democrats have been leaning on president Biden to make voting easier and fairer to access. They argue that voting needs to be protected and as free as possible, as it is a constitutional right.

However, his landmark 'For the people' bill, that was initiated to widen the franchise, could not overcome the Republican filibuster and failed to pass last month.

During the 2020 Presidential election there were widespread, and uncorroborated, claims that the Democrats had engaged in voter fraud to overcome Donald Trump. Republican controlled state legislatures have been imposing new restrictions on voters since the turn of the year with 14 states tightening rules on who can and cannot vote. These laws also set about drawing new voting maps that could cement their majorities.

Biden will make a speech later on Tuesday to set out his case to make voting easier and to garner support for his bill.

There will be no partisan agreement between the two parties on polar-opposite beliefs.

Representative Chris Turner speaks to the press after the Texas Democrats arrived at Dulles airport.

What can they do to stop it?

By denying the Republicans a quorum, the Democrats have effectively bought them and their party time to try and get the 'For the people' bill passed at a federal level.

Indeed, this is not the first time members of a state legislature have fled the state in opposition. On June 1 the Democrats pulled a similar stunt by leaving the Texas House of Representatives to prevent the same bill being passed.

But this action can only last so long. Long stays away from a family home are predictably expensive and voters support for actions like these are finite. Furthermore, Texas Gov. Abbott has threatened to arrest the lawmakers on their return to the state.

The Texas democrats said they hoped the President's voting act could be passed before they return as the federal law would supersede state law but that would need a large turnaround in congress to pass.

What has the reaction been?

Democrats across the country applauded the actions of their Texan colleagues.

While the Republican reaction was as scathing as you might expect.

Gov. Abbott told Austin television channel KVUE, “If these people want to be hanging out, wherever they’re hanging out on this taxpayer-paid junket, they’re going to have to be prepared to do it for well over a year," he said.

Republican Congressman Ted Cruz told Fox News, "What you're seeing the Democrats do here is a political stunt, and I will say it's ironic, as they were getting on their private jet to fly to Washington, D.C., they almost surely had to show identification to get on that jet," Cruz said.

Cruz infamously boarded a flight to Cancun during storm Ura last winter to escape the weather.