Democrats, Progressives Celebrate Defeat of 'Wicked' Texas Voting Bill Following Walkout

Texas Democrats successfully prevented the passage of a new law that would have imposed greater restrictions on voting in the Lone Star State on Sunday by walking out of the state house chamber and denying Republicans the quorum needed to proceed.

Senate Bill (SB) 7 had been passed by the state senate early on Sunday but about two hours before a midnight deadline, Democrats started to leave the chamber in increasingly large numbers, eventually preventing the Texas House of Representatives from having the quorum necessary for a final vote.

However, Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, said he would reintroduce the bill and order lawmakers to attend a special session for that purpose. He has not yet said when that will take place.

Democrats and progressives had cause to celebrate this rare defeat for Republicans in a state where the GOP controls every aspect of government.

"We killed that bill," said State Representative Chris Turner, the Democratic House Leader who instructed his caucus to walk out by text message at 10.35 p.m.

In a statement sent to Newsweek on Monday, Turner said Texas Republicans had "only themselves to blame for the way this Session is ending.

"The 67 members of the House Democratic Caucus have been fighting SB7 — the Republican anti-voter legislation — all year long. Tonight, we finished that fight," Turner said.

"Ahead of a midnight deadline to pass legislation, dozens of Democratic Members were prepared to give speeches against this measure, which is designed to disenfranchise and discriminate against Texans.

"We were determined to run out the clock. It became obvious Republicans were going to cut off debate to ram through their vote suppression legislation. At that point, we had no choice but to take extraordinary measures to protect our constituents and their right to vote."

Former Texas Democratic representative and presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke lauded the walkout.

"Proud of Texas House Dems," he tweeted. "They fought voter suppression with everything they had & kept the hope of free & fair elections alive for another day. There will be a special session with another voter suppression bill. But they bought Texas some time. Let's make the most of it."

Proud of Texas House Dems.

They fought voter suppression with everything they had & kept the hope of free & fair elections alive for another day.

There will be a special session with another voter suppression bill. But they bought Texas some time.

Let’s make the most of it.

— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) May 31, 2021

Julián Castro, former secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and previously a mayor of San Antonio, Texas said state Democrats "aren't letting democracy die in the darkness."

"They have walked out of this sham session as Republicans try to jam through their voter suppression bill. This is the kind of fight we need from our legislators," he said.

Progress Texas, which describes itself as "a rapid response media organization promoting progressive messages and actions" issued a statement celebrating the bill's defeat following the walkout.

"Ding dong, the wicked bill is dead," Wesley Storey, communications manager at Progress Texas, said in a statement. "Resilient Texans organized for months to kill Senate Bill 7, and on the very last day that it could pass, voters can finally celebrate its demise."

"Democrats used every tool at their disposal to kill this bill, and Texans are all the better for it," the statement went on. "Texans can sleep better tonight knowing they have champions at the Capitol committed to defending their rights. Hopefully Texas Republicans have learned their lesson. Instead of wasting time on their Jim Crow 2.0 legislation, Republicans should have spent this session prioritizing the issues most important to Texans."

SB7 would have introduced a number of new restrictions on voting, including eliminating drive thru voting and 24-hour voting locations and limiting Sunday voting to before 1 p.m.

Passage of the bill seemed all but certain on Sunday and the Texas state senate approved the measure early in the morning, including a late change that would have made it easier for a judge to overturn an election.

Critics charged that the bill's aim was voter suppression and that it would disproportionately affect Black Americans. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris publicly condemned the measure.

"Today, Texas legislators advanced a bill attacking the right to vote," Harris tweeted on Saturday as the bill progressed through the Texas legislature. "It's yet another assault on our democracy. Congress needs to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act."

In a statement on Saturday, Biden called SB7 "part of an assault on democracy."

"It's wrong and un-American. In the 21st century, we should be making it easier, not harder, for every eligible voter to vote," Biden said.

Newsweek has asked Texas House Republicans for comment.

5/31/21 8.15 a.m. ET: This article has been updated with a statement from Texas Rep. Chris Turner.

A Voter Leaving the Polls in Texas
A voter exits a polling location on November 03, 2020 in Fort Worth, Texas. A Democratic walkout prevented the passage of new voting restrictions on Sunday. Tom Pennington/Getty Images