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Dems stage surprise walk-out at Texas State House to block vote on voting rules bill, governor calls for special session

Senate Bill 7 (SB7) would enact a major overhaul of the electoral process in Texas. Written along lines not unlike those of similar bills passed in Georgia and Florida, it became a focal point for partisan clashes on the state and federal levels. Republicans said the reform was meant to protect the integrity of elections from fraud, while Democrats said it was meant to suppress the vote of black Texans, with some branding it the “new Jim Crow,” in reference to the system of legal discrimination of black people that was in force in many states before the mid-1960s.

With the GOP controlling both chambers of the state legislature, the Texas bill was expected to be finalized on the weekend and passed on to the desk of Governor Greg Abbott. However, a last-minute maneuver by House Democrats blocked a vote on Sunday, the last day of the legislative session.

The Democrats’ initial plan was to stall until the midnight deadline with speeches against the bill, but “it became obvious Republicans were going to cut off debate to ram through their vote suppression legislation,” House Democratic chairman Chris Turner said in a statement later. “At that point, we had no choice but to take extraordinary measures to protect our constituents and their right to vote.”

The clash over SB7 escalated on the weekend after a slew of last-minute changes were proposed by a conference committee following a behind-closed-doors discussion over the past week. The changes introduced additional rules that were not part of the previous versions of the bill, which were passed by both the House and the Senate.

These older versions differed significantly from each other. On Sunday, both chambers were supposed to pass a unified text that would then be signed by Governor Abbott. A marathon debate in the Senate, where Democrats objected to the changes and the fact that they were not given enough time to review them properly, ended with a victory for the GOP, after SB7 was approved overnight.  

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