Texas Lawmakers Map Out Next Voting Rights Moves

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The Texas lawmakers planned to split up in groups to talk with Democratic senators. Meetings were scheduled on Tuesday with Chuck Schumer, the majority leader; Cory Booker of New Jersey; Kirsten Gillibrand of New York; and Alex Padilla of California.

They had not yet succeeded in securing an audience with Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who along with Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia has made herself a stalwart defender of the 60-vote threshold to pass most legislation. But the Texans are expected to meet with Mr. Manchin later this week, an aide to the senator said.

“We have got to get in to see Sinema,” said Jasmine Crockett, a state representative from Dallas.

In Austin, the State Senate began debating the election overhaul bill on Tuesday afternoon, with the four remaining Democratic senators peppering Bryan Hughes, the Republican author of the bill, during an extensive question-and-answer period.

In the House, with no business to conduct, members mingled among themselves, worked their cellphones, and browsed on their computers. Doors to the chamber were locked in accordance with House procedure after members voted 76-to-4 to place a “call on the House” and order state law enforcement officers to round up missing members. The dissenting votes came from the four Democrats who remained behind.

To prevent Republicans from passing their election bill in the current special session, which began on July 8 and will last for 30 days, Democratic state representatives from Texas must stay out of the state for more than three weeks. After that, Mr. Abbott could call a new special session, which would leave Democrats grappling with whether to maintain their strategy and embark on another lengthy and costly excursion.

The election legislation that Republicans have proposed is very similar to the bill the party originally introduced this year, with restrictions on voting that would most likely have a disproportionate impact on poorer communities and communities of color, especially in Harris County, the largest county in the state, which is trending Democratic.

The new bills, introduced in the State House and State Senate, include provisions aimed at Harris County, including bans on drive-through voting and 24-hour voting, two new voting methods that were pioneered by the county last year to help voters safely cast a ballot during the coronavirus pandemic and to expand in-person options for voters with irregular schedules. Nearly 140,000 voters in Harris County used one of the two methods in 2020.

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