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Texas governor vows to arrest Democrat lawmakers who fled state to block voting restrictions bill

More than 50 Democrats left Austin for Washington to prevent the passage of Republican bill

Louise Hall
Tuesday 13 July 2021 13:13 BST
'Hypocrite' Texas Democrats threatened with arrest by governor after fleeing state
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Texas’ governor has called Democrats in the state’s legislature who fled for Washington to prevent the passage of Republican-led voting bills “hypocrites” and vowed they will be arrested upon their return.

Gregg Abbott said the move was the most “un-Texan thing” he had ever heard, calling the lawmakers “quitters” and “hypocrites” in an appearance on Fox News on Monday.

The governor went on to say that the state’s House of Representatives has the power to issue a call for the arrest of lawmakers who obstruct voting practices but only in the state of Texas.

He said: “Once they step back into the state of Texas they will be arrested and brought to the Texas Capitol and we will be conducting business.”

The procedure is known as a call of the House and allows law enforcement to hunt down lawmakers who have already fled the chamber, The Texas Tribune reports.

“What the speaker can do is issue a call to have these members arrested. In addition to that, however, I can and I will continue to call a special session after special session after special session all the way up until election next year,” Mr Abbott told KUVE.

“As soon as they come back in the state of Texas, they will be arrested,” the governor reiterated. “They will be cabined inside the Texas Capitol until they get their job done.”

More than 50 Democrats left Austin for Dulles International Airport on Monday before the House was expected to give early approval to a sweeping new voting restrictions bill, which critics say disproportionately targets minority groups.

The legislation is one of a wave of GOP-backed election bills introduced by Republicans around the country following former President Donald Trump’s false claims regarding the 2020 election.

The reduced numbers meant the House would not have enough lawmakers in attendance to conduct business or vote on the bill, which is aimed at restricting mail-in ballots and some early voting procedures.

Democrats and voting rights groups have condemned provisions in the bill saying they will disproportionately disfranchise voters of colour.

“This is a now-or-never for our democracy. We are holding the line in Texas,” Democratic state representative Trey Martinez Fischer said. “We’ve left our jobs, we’ve left our families, we’ve left our homes. Because there is nothing more important than voting rights in America.”

President Joe Biden is expected to hold a major address on voting rights on Tuesday as lawmakers continue to put pressure on the government to take action at a federal level.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press

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