More than 100 state lawmakers from around the country are expected to joinand some United States Senators for a voting rights rally in Washington D.C. on Tuesday as part of a continued push for Congress to pass sweeping federal election legislation.
The Texas Democrats have been in Washington D.C. since July 12. They left the state to deny a quorum during the legislature’s special session to block Republican lawmakers from passing legislation that would overhaul Texas’ election laws.
During their three weeks in Washington, the Texas lawmakers have met with Vice President Kamala Harris and members of Congress. They haveto pass the , a sweeping federal elections bill, and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which is aimed at shoring up a key provision of the Voting Rights Act.
“When you now bring in reinforcements from other states saying they’re part of this fight too, it only magnifies the moment,” said Texas state representative Trey Martinez Fischer. “I think the nation is speaking with one clear voice on this.”
The rally on Tuesday is part of a week of events for the lawmakers from around the country. Some of them lawmakers come from states where governors have signed new laws that significantly overhauled election procedures. They say that they’re coming together to ratchet up the pressure on Congress to pass federal voting rights legislation.
“Every issue that we care about depends on voters’ ability to freely and fairly cast a ballot on Election Day, whether it’s health care, jobs or education,” Georgia state representative Billy Mitchell said in a statement. Georgia Governor Brian Kempin March.
“Right now, our democracy is at stake. I’m proud to stand with fellow state legislators from Georgia and across the country to demand action,” Mitchell added.
The Texas special session ends on Friday. Governor Greg Abbott has said he plans to call more special sessions, but it’s not clear yet how quickly he will call the next session. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick said in July that Texas lawmakersat some point.
“This bill’s going to pass,” Patrick said. “Is it in August or September or October? Is it next February? Is it next June? This bill is going to pass because the people of Texas, of all colors, want safe and secure elections.”
Republican lawmakers in Texas have said the proposals are about making it harder to cheat and restoring confidence in elections.would eliminate drive-thru and 24-hour early voting that was used in the Houston area last year due to the pandemic. It would also expand early voting hours in some medium-sized counties; add ID requirements for voting by mail; increase criminal penalties for some election officials who don’t follow regulations; and give more powers to partisan poll watchers.
The Texas House Democrats have repeatedly said they were intent on killing election bills introduced during this session. But soon they’ll be faced with another big decision: what to do when this session ends with another looming in the future.
“Ultimately, our goal is to stop any other voter suppression bills from passing in Texas for as long as we can,” said Texas state Representative Gina Hinoojosa. “But this is all very fluid. We don’t know when he might call a special session.”
Martinez Fischer and Hinojosa reiterated that all options are on the table for the Texas Democrats moving forward. Neither lawmaker would say whether Democratic lawmakers will be returning to Texas when the special session ends.
The U.S. House is currently scheduled to be out until at least the end of August, but House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn told reporters on Friday that lawmakers are planning to have the text of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act ready by the end of this week. The timing could coincide with the anniversary of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which was signed into law on August 6.
On Friday, President Biden, Vice President Harris, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met at the White House to discuss voting rights. A statement issued by the White House after the meeting said the leaders “agreed on the moral imperative of passing legislation to protect against voter suppression, electoral subversion, dark money, and partisan gerrymandering and will continue working together toward that goal urgently.”
Martinez Fischer said he hopes that this will produce some clear results about the timeline for congressional action.
“I know that the larger talking point (this week) deals with infrastructure,” Martinez Fischer said. “But I do believe that this Congress is dynamic and can walk and chew gum at the same time. It would be a disappointment to the country on the week that we celebrate the Voting Rights Act if we have no significant movement.”