Voting bill finally passes in Texas Senate after 15-hour filibuster

Politics

Texas State Sen. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, wears running shoes as she filibusters Senate Bill 1, a voting bill, at the Texas Capitol Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

AUSTIN, Texas (NewsNation Now) — Texas politics has always been heavy on theater, but Democrat moves to stop passage of a voting bill that they believe would strip rights from many poor and minority voters ended today after a 15-hour “curtain call” in the form of a filibuster.

Knowing that her effort was likely doomed from the start but determined to make a stand, Democrat Carol Alvarado began speaking shortly before 6 p.m. Wednesday. Bathroom breaks were forbidden, and she had to remain standing and speaking the entire time.

Just as Wendy Davis did in 2013 when filibustering an anti-abortion bill, Alvarado wore running shoes on the Senate floor.

“What’s wrong with drive-thru voting during a pandemic? What’s wrong with 24-hour voting? Why can’t we have expanded voting hours for the people who have to work late? Where is all the so-called fraud?” Alvarado said in the closing moments of her filibuster. “Where does it end?

Her filibuster over, Alvarado put down her microphone and hugged her fellow Democrats.

The bill passed by and 18-11 vote minutes later.

However, with state House Democrats still staying away from the Capitol, the bill remains stalled. That standoff has lasted 32 days, with the latest move involving House officers delivering civil arrest warrants to the absent Democrats on Wednesday.

The Republicans remain four attendees shy of the 100 required for a quorum, which would allow them to hold the vote that would pass the bill. Even after the warrants were delivered to the Democrats’ offices inside the Capitol, there was little indication the stalemate was close to ending.

The Texas Legislature is now in rare territory, not sure what will happen next.

“I don’t worry about things I can’t control,” said state Rep. Erin Zwiener, one of the Democrats who was served with a warrant and has refused to return to the Capitol. “Nothing about these warrants are a surprise, and they don’t necessarily affect my plans.”

The outcome here is inevitable: Republicans hold sway in both houses, and Democrats will eventually have to return to continue the business of the state.

However, in the meantime the moves and countermoves continue. One Democratic representative secured a court order in a Houston court preventing him from being forced to return.

The NAACP has also weighed in, asking the federal Justice Department to determine whether the Republican threat to arrest the absent legislators was a federal crime.

The offense committed the the absent legislators is a violation of House rules, which is not a criminal offense.

With typical Texas bravado, Republican Travis Clardy, who helped negotiate an early version of the voting bill that Democrats first stopped with a walkout in May, told ABC News he believed, “They can be physically brought back to the Capitol.”

The Texas Department of Public Safety, the state’s law enforcement agency, referred questions about the warrants to the House speaker.

The protest began a month ago, when 50 House Democrats boarded private jets and fled to Washington, D.C. They are determined to make Texas the front line in the nationwide battle over voting rights sparked by former President Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen.

The bills in general limit opportunities to vote, with things like drive-through voting and 24-hour polling banned. Democrats have claimed this is an attempt to limit the franchise of voting blocs that traditionally skew in their favor.

It was unclear Wednesday how many Democrats remained in Washington, where they had hoped to push President Joe Biden and other Democrats there to pass federal legislation that would protect voting rights in Texas and beyond.

Senate Democrats pledged to make it the first order of business when they return in the fall, even though they don’t have a clear strategy for overcoming steadfast Republican opposition.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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