Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Wednesday defended election proposals which were criticized for depriving voters of the right to vote if passed. He also condemned what he called “offensive” language used to discuss the bill.
Patrick held a press conference at the Texas Capitol which followed a separate press conference held by Senate Democrats, many of whom have returned from Washington DC after leaving the state in solidarity with their fellow House colleagues who broke up quorum last week. Democrats oppose House Bill 3 and Senate Bill 1, which has already passed in the upper house but is blocked by the House unable to act.
The bills would ban drive-thru voting, 24-hour voting, and ban election officials from sending unsolicited postal ballot requests, among other provisions.
Nine Senate Democrats were in Washington, not enough to break the quorum, but they have since returned to Austin. Representative Carol Alvarado of Houston, who chairs the Democratic Senate caucus, said lawmakers wanted to “publicize the Jim Crow-style provisions of Senate Bill 1,” delay the bill and advocate for it. federal voting rights legislation.
“With full support and solidarity with our House Democrats, Texas Senate Democrats are ready to bring the fight back here to Austin,” Alvarado said.
Senator John Whitmire, a Democrat from Houston who was not among those who visited Washington, called on Governor Abbott to meet with Democrats in the Senate.
“Let us sit down as legislators, executive branch, Republican, Democrat, independent, and resolve this impasse,” he said. “The public expects us to do this, but the governor, threatening to arrest us when you, first, have no power to arrest members of the House or the Senate is a no- starter.”
Whitmire appeared to be referring to Abbott’s recent comments on KVUE regarding the Democrats leaving the State House.
“As soon as they return to the state of Texas, they will be arrested, they will be locked inside the Texas Capitol until they do their job,” Abbott said.
Patrick, speaking to reporters later in the afternoon, disputed references to the bills as “Jim Crow 2.0”.
“It’s offensive. It’s hard to sit down and negotiate with someone when you basically call them racist, ”he said. “So for Democrats, why not take that out. Second, stop talking about restricting and suppressing voters. This bill is not about that. They know that. If there are any issues they want to sit down and fix, sit down at the table. “
He continued that the 24-hour voting and drive-thru voting issues are “non-starters”. Both were measures taken in Harris County during the pandemic.
Senate Democrats earlier this month, before House Democrats broke the quorum, sent a letter to the author of Senate Bill 1, Senator Bryan Hughes, outlining concerns about the bill law, as well as the additions they would like to make, such as automatic voter registration and universal voting by poster.
Patrick also expressed his support for changing the quorum rules for the legislature. Earlier this month, he expressed support for changing the quorum to a simple majority plus one through a constitutional amendment and asked Abbott to add it to the agenda for a special session. Constitutional amendments require a two-thirds vote.
“You can’t have Republicans or Democrats, whatever party, holding democracy hostage because they’re losing on an issue,” he said.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.