Texas Republicans approve arrest of Democrats who fled to block voting bill: reports

Washington (AFP) –


A top Texas lawmaker late Tuesday signed arrest warrants for 52 absent Democrats who walked out of the state's House of Representatives last month in an effort to block a restrictive voting bill, US media reported.

Republican state lawmakers in Texas voted earlier in the evening to allow the arrests.

The warrants, signed by Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, are set to be delivered to the House sergeant-at-arms Wednesday morning, the Dallas Morning News reported, citing Phelan's spokesman.

The motion to bring back the absentee lawmakers passed 80 to 12, with only one Republican voting against it.

Dozens of Democratic lawmakers fled Texas in July, traveling to Washington with the intention to run out the clock on a special session called by Governor Greg Abbott in a bid to ram through the voting bill.

The special session had to be called after the lawmakers walked out in May to torpedo Republican plans for voting restrictions that President Joe Biden had decried as voter suppression and an "assault on democracy."

Their absence left the Texas House short of a quorum needed to pass anything.

At least two dozen of the Democratic lawmakers remain in Washington, according to the Morning News.

Texas House Democratic Caucus leader Chris Turner said it is "fully within our rights as legislators to break quorum to protect our constituents," according to the Morning News.

"Texas House Democrats are committed to fighting with everything we have against Republicans' attacks on our freedom to vote," he said in a statement.

The law in question would make mail-in voting more difficult by requiring voters to give extra information, bar local officials from sending absentee ballot applications to anyone who did not request one and end after-hours and drive-through voting.

Supporters say Senate Bill 7 is designed to make voting more secure, but critics say it aims to make it more cumbersome for ethnic-minority voters, who tend to vote Democrat.

The warrants come hours after the all-Republican Texas Supreme Court overturned an earlier ruling that said Abbott and Phelan did not have the authority to arrest the missing legislators, according to the New York Times.

The Democrats from Austin have spent their time in Washington asking federal lawmakers for help in blocking restrictive voting laws at the state level.

Democrats nationwide argue that following Donald Trump's presidential loss in November, and amid his repeated false claims of election fraud, Republican legislatures across the country introduced similar bills to curtail voting access.

Even if the lawmakers who have returned to Texas are arrested and brought to the House, it is unclear whether there will be enough elected officials present to establish a quorum, especially since Texas police would have no jurisdiction to retrieve the members still in Washington.