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(Reuters) – Thousands of Americans rallied across the country on Saturday to demand protections for voting rights in the face of a nationwide conservative campaign culminating this year with a wave of voting restrictions in Republican-led states.
Two days later, Texas Republicans won the most contested and protracted battle to date in our national confrontation about a year ago by access to voting, the most fundamental of democratic rights. The Texas legislature on Tuesday sent a list of voting restrictions, which will almost certainly be a disproportionate burden on minority voters, to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s office, which is expected to sign the bill.
The lawmakers’ signature on the final version of the bill marks the end of a remarkable legislative saga, including an incredible time when the Speaker of the Texas Republican House asked his colleagues to refrain from mentioning it. the elephant in the room. “The president would appreciate members not using the word‘ racism ’this afternoon,” Dade Phelan said during Thursday’s House debate on Senate Bill 1.
Phelan’s request was extraordinary, Joshua Blank, research director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin, told me.
“Tell other duly elected members representing Texans not to speak on a highly German issue in the bill and in a legislature where there is a right of first amendment specifically to political discourse, which was blatant and incomprehensible,” said Blank. . “Given the conversations we have in our society, it’s pretty presumptuous for the White House speaker in Texas to tell a group of mostly black and brown representatives not to mention racism when discussing an election bill and in a state that the courts have been repeatedly found to be involved in racial discrimination. “
Phelan’s office did not respond to requests for comment in this column.
The bill includes measures banning polling stations 24 hours a day, preventing officials from sending unsolicited postal voting requests, and authorizing partisan observers of voting.
Democrats used almost every tool they had to block the bill, forcing two special legislative sessions, fleeing the state and dealing with the remote and temporary prospect of arrest. Still, it will be harder to vote in the next Texas election than in the last, and the Democrats’ last-chance Hail Mary is to turn to a judiciary that has already signaled its broad agreement on the agenda. Republican on voting rights.
All in all, the path that legislation took to the governor’s table foreshadowed a bleak future for voting rights and a potentially even more divided and dark era in national politics.
Even before the Senate passed Bill 1, Texas had curtailed voting rights in other recent laws, including a provision that made it difficult to obtain ballots for medical reasons.
The bill was denounced as part of the racist legacy of the suppression of American voters by various defense groups and Texas Democrats.
Republicans across the country have pushed for similar legislation on “electoral integrity,” citing former President Donald Trump’s false claims that fraud caused his 2020 election defeat. But there were no substantial allegations of fraud in the Last year’s Texas election, which caused Republicans to maintain control for three decades in all offices across the state, Reuters reported on May 31.
Democrats blocked the first iteration of the Texas bill in May and denied Republicans the necessary quorum on a dramatic walk during the closing hours of the regular legislature session.
But Abbott pledged to convene special 30-day sessions until the bill was passed, and he did so twice.
Democrats fled the chambers again in July, fleeing Washington, DC, where they tried to draw attention and support, Reuters reported on Aug. 27.
Lawmakers fell into a downtown hotel, unable to bathe because Republicans placed a videographer on the pool deck to capture any leisure time, which could be portrayed as a violation of their commitment to spending time working, the New York Times reported. Friday.
Finally, the Speaker of the House, Phelan, issued arrest warrants against his 52 Democratic colleagues, according to rules that allow civilian arrests of lawmakers absent from the state.
The outing lasted almost six weeks. But some boycotts returned to the state house in late August (to the displeasure of other Democratic remnants).
Last Thursday then began an ardent and long-lasting debate.
At one point, Rep. Andrew Murr, author of the bill, said he did not “necessarily believe that fraud was a precedent condition for implementing good policy.” Murr acknowledged that democracies have an inherent interest in increasing voter turnout, but said the state has no role in facilitating or encouraging voting.
Ultimately, the bill went from 80 to 41, even though Democrats nearly exhausted their options, Reuters reported.
The only measure left is a planned lawsuit, but legal experts broadly agree that the Supreme Court, which paved the way for new voting restrictions, is inclined to let many of the new laws be upheld, according to Reuters reported Tuesday.
None of this bodes well when it is considered that Republicans have also blocked federal voting rights legislation and that 17 other states have enacted voting restrictions this year, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University.
“What’s happening in Texas reflects a lot of what’s happening in the country, which is that we’re at a pretty big turning point, and it’s really career-focused,” Blank said, noting that Texas has been majority- minority state for some time.
“The way these changes will be litigated in Texas will say a lot about this country’s future policy, because either Texas will remain the most diverse and urbanized state led by Republicans, or it will move to democratic control and Republicans will become a minority party. at the national level, ”he said, because his party must win the votes of the Texans to maintain an advantage over the electoral college and federal elections.
Texas ’total legislative struggle points to an ugly way forward, in either scenario. And the results, so far, are a harbinger of the voting rights of non-white Americans across the country and of national politics.
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