Texas Legislature

Texas House Hears Public Testimony on Voting Bill After Quorum Restored

The House Constitutional Rights and Remedies committee is scheduled to hear testimony Monday

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A committee heard public testimony Monday on the high-profile elections bill after a quorum was restored Thursday in the Texas House of Representatives, allowing discussion to resume over the GOP-backed bill.

Senate Bill 1, and others, have been stymied after dozens of Texas Democrats walked out in July in an attempt to stop the bill's passage.

The House Constitutional Rights and Remedies committee is heard testimony on the voting bill and House Bill 20, which relates to censorship on social media platforms and email, on Monday.

Despite the Democrats' walkout, the Senate narrowly maintained enough members to conduct business. The chamber passed the voting bill last week after Sen. Carol Alvarado's (D-Houston) 15-hour filibuster stalled proceedings.

Monday, dozens of speakers signed up to speak both in support of the bill and against it.

One woman against it said, "We should be encouraging people to vote and not limit where and when they can vote."

One man for the bill commented, "every person's vote should count, and we want voting easy, but we want cheating hard."

The House lacked the necessary two-thirds of its 150 members to have a quorum, until Thursday when three House Democrats broke the 38-day holdout.

In a statement Thursday, the three lawmakers — Armando Walle, Ana Hernandez and Garnet Coleman -- defended their return by saying they had pushed Congress on voting rights legislation while pointing to the growing urgency of surging COVID-19 caseloads in Texas.

Nearly three dozen Democrats — more than half the group that fled to Washington, D.C. — signed onto a statement that did not say whether they would return but took aim at the few who did.

"We are disappointed that a few Democrats chose to return to the floor. We feel betrayed and heartbroken, but our resolve is strong and this fight is not over," the statement read.

House Democratic Caucus Chair Rep. Chris Turner (D-Arlington) said he believes now that there is a quorum, lawmakers should fight the bill in Austin.

"It is important that we work as hard as we can to make it different, to remove some of the more onerous provisions of the bill," Turner said.

The bill must reach Gov. Greg Abbott's (R) desk by Sept. 5. If it doesn't, legislators could face another special session.

Abbott has said that he would continue to call 30-day special sessions "to reform our broken bail system, uphold election integrity, and pass other important items that Texans demand and deserve."

Texas Republicans have tried to pass measures that would prohibit 24-hour polling sites, ban drive-thru voting and give partisan poll watchers more access. Critics have called the bill voter suppression.

Rep. Matt Shaheen, R-Plano, who is on the committee hearing the bill, said he disagreed with that characterization.

"The election integrity bill has multiple, multiple democratic amendments in it, and there is continued discussion now that they're back in town," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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