Texas Republicans Can't Arrest Democrats Who Fled State To Block Voting Bill, Judge Says

ToplineA Texas House Republican judge ruled Sunday that warrants cannot be issued for Democratic colleagues to arrest if they don't return to the Capitol and allow restrictive voter legislation to move forward.Texas State Democrats spoke at a news conference about voting rights outside of the U.S. Capitol.The Key FactsA Travis County district judge issued a temporary restraining or for 14 days to stop Texas Governor. Greg Abbott and House Speaker Dade Pelan are prohibited from restricting the movement of House Democrats in Texas or issuing arrest warrants. This order can be extended and a court hearing in the litigation will be held on August 20, which was brought to the court by 19 House Democrats who fled the state. In July, Texas House lawmakers voted to allow the sergeant at-arms to force lawmakers back to Capitol. They could also arrest them if necessary. Democrats fled Texas to prevent the House from having the necessary number to pass the new voting restrictions. The authorization was not extended across state lines. This meant that Democrats were protected so long as they remained outside of Texas. However, the Austin American-Statesman reported that an arrest warrant was issued for one Texas legislator who returned briefly to Texas. Since the end of the first special session, the order and arrest warrant have expired. The Statesman reports that the House did not authorize any Democrats to be arrested when it convened the second special session on Saturday. Although plans for Democrats are not yet clear, the ruling allows lawmakers to return to Texas and continue blocking the passage of voting legislation, if sufficient lawmakers do not stay to prevent the House from achieving quorum.Important QuoteIt clearly appears from the facts set forththat Defendants have erroneously interpreted Texas law and legislative rules to permit the detention, confinement or other restriction of members of the Texas House of Representatives within the state of Texas in response to a call for quorum, and that, unless Defendants are immediately restrained...Plaintiffs will suffer immediate and irreparable harm, State District Judge Brad Urrutia, a Democrat, ruled Sunday.What to WatchPhelan's office has yet to respond to a request for comment about the ruling and next steps by the Texas House Republicans. This ruling comes as more Democratic lawmakers are poised to return home to Texas. They would no longer be under threat of being arrested. The Texas Tribune reports that two Democrats, who had previously left Texas, were present at the Texas House's meeting on Saturday. However, there was no quorum required to vote on legislation such as the voting bill. Rep. Eddie Lucio, one of the legislators, said that the House could reach a quorum by this week, as he anticipates more of his Democratic colleagues returning. Although at least 26 Democrats have indicated that they plan to remain in Washington, D.C., the Tribune points out that this will not stop the Texas House from having the quorum necessary to vote on legislation.Important BackgroundSince May, Texas House Democrats have been fighting Republican colleagues on the voting legislation. This began when Democrats walked off of the House floor while the bill was being discussed and prevented it from being passed before its session expired. Abbott called a special session to pass the voting legislation. Other bills. This prompted 57 Democrats from Texas to leave the state to ensure that the House did not have the required quorum to pass it. After the special session ended this week, no votes were possible, Abbott called another special session. He has promised to keep calling special sessions until all legislative items are passed. When a vote takes place, the GOP-controlled legislature is expected to approve the voting legislation. It includes measures such as driving-through voting and restricting ballot drop boxes. The Texas Democrats recognize this and are lobbying Washington, D.C. for federal voting legislation that could remove those state restrictions.Continue readingTexas Governor Abbott Calls Another Special Session with Democrats Still in D.C.Texas House Votes to Arrest Democrats Who Left State to Block Voting Bill. Here's What Could Happen Next (Forbes).Another special session was held to pass a GOP voter bill. It started without a majority. It is unclear whether Democrats will remain away this time. (Texas Tribune).Travis County Judge signs temporary order to block arrest of quorum-busting Democrats by Austin American-Statesman