Texas State Democrats (L-R) Democratic Chair Rep. Chris Turner (TX-101), Rep. Rafael Anchia (TX-103), Rep. Senfronia Thompson (TX-141), and Rep. Rhetta Bowers (TX-113) speak during a news conference on voting rights outside the U.S. Capitol

Texas Arrest Warrants Signed for Democrats Who Fled the State to Save Voting Rights

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Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan has signed civil arrest warrants for the dozens of Democratic lawmakers who fled the state last month.

It’s been about four weeks since Texas Democrats walked out in protest of a vote-suppressing bill, preventing Republicans from reaching the quorum they need to vote on it. Most fled to Washington D.C., where they lobbied the federal government for voting rights reforms. The move also put them out of the jurisdiction of local officials and the kind of warrant Phelan just signed.

Because these arrest warrants are civil, not criminal, lawmakers won’t be taken to jail—just to the Capitol building, where they’ll then need Phelan’s permission to leave. Still, the threat of detainment probably isn’t exactly enticing Dems to return home. Although that might not really matter.

Republicans don’t need all the Democrats to return to the Capitol, just a quorum—two-thirds of a chamber’s members. In the Texas House, that means they need 100 of the 150 members present, and according to NPR, as of this Monday, they have 96.

Only about two dozen lawmakers remain in Washington, according to the Dallas Morning News, which first reported on the arrest warrants. And some of those who have stayed away are pretty upset with their colleagues who are now helping Republicans reclaim their quorum.

It appears that some of these Democrats see their mission as being complete, while others clearly disagree.

Although, at the same time, COVID-19 seems to be making the rounds among Republicans in the Capitol, making it harder for them to reach that quorum after all.

Meanwhile, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has vetoed funding for the state legislature, saying, “funding should not be provided for those who quit their job early, leaving their state with unfinished business and exposing taxpayers to higher costs for an additional legislative session.” However, that funding also supports the lawmakers who remained, plus staffers and various legislative agencies.

(image: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.