DALLAS — Did Democrats just delay the inevitable when they walked out of the Texas House to block a sweeping elections bill from passing? As soon as it happened, Gov. Greg Abbott promised he’d call a special session.
Rep. Gene Wu said at a minimum, the walkout prevented the GOP from adding major revisions under the cover of darkness hours before the session ended.
“If nothing else, the public needed to know what they were trying to sneak through in the middle of the night,” the Democrat said on Inside Texas Politics. “They added 22 new pages to this bill, stuff that was not in the House version, not in the Senate version and was just so much worse than anything even contemplated by either body.”
Senate Bill 7, the election bill in question, would have, among other things, empowered partisan poll watchers, made it easier to overturn election results and created uniform early voting hours. Part of that change delayed early voting on Sundays until 1 p.m., which critics say specifically attacked African American voting efforts known as “Souls to the Polls,” when Black voters cast a ballot before or after church.
But since the walkout and the bill’s defeat, at least temporarily, Republicans have said that time change was a “typo.” Instead of saying early voting cannot begin until 1 p.m. on Sundays, Republicans say the time should have read 11 a.m. Rep. Wu said that’s an example of how the walkout worked, again if for no other reason than to point out what Democrats call blatant voter restrictions targeting minorities.
“If you want to say you typed in an extra ‘one,’ that might have been a typo. But it said p.m., not a.m. Those are pretty big differences," said Wu. "However they want to walk it back, it’s up to them. I don’t personally believe it.”
Wu did admit that part of the concern for Democrats is that when they come back for a special session this summer, the election bill could actually be worse.
He also said he’s spoken to some of his Republican colleagues since the walkout. While he didn’t want to provide specifics, Wu said some indicated they were relieved the legislation was blocked, because they aren’t necessarily fans of some aspects of the bill.
“Things like mail-in ballot voting, that’s used by Republicans a lot more, traditionally, than Democrats. And if you put big hurdles in front of mail-in voting, that could be problems for them.”