The Texas Senate passed a Republican-backed voting bill after Democratic House members fled the state in order to block a final House vote.
Senators voted 18-4 along party lines to approve the legislation. Eight Senate Democrats announced that they too had fled to Washington, D.C., on Monday, with a ninth expected to arrive Monday evening. However, with 22 out of 31 members present, the Senate kept a quorum and was able to pass the measure.
“This bill is about making it both easy to vote and harder to cheat,” Republican state senator Bryan Hughes, who authored the bill, told reporters. Hughes said criticism of the bill stemmed from a “horrible, misleading, false national debate coming out of Washington.”
State Democrats have accused Republicans of attempting to suppress voting rights.
“Texas Senate Democrats decided to take matters into their own hands in order to secure the voting rights of Texans…and work with our partners at the federal level to pass voting rights legislation that would rein in discriminatory voter suppression laws and unfair redistricting practices,” the nine senators who fled to Washington said in a statement.
The bill itself aims to mandate that voters write their driver’s license or other identification number on absentee ballots, bans state officials from sending out unsolicited mail-in ballots, and bans 24-hour and drive-in voting.
Initially, the bill limited early voting on Sundays before elections to begin at 1 p.m., a provision Democrats claimed was intended to curtail “souls to the polls” voting drives for black churchgoers. However, the provision was struck from the legislation last month.
House Democrats walked out of a legislative session last month to deny a quorum for Republicans to advance the bill. After Democrats fled the state on Sunday, Governor Greg Abbott threatened to arrest the lawmakers upon their return to Texas.
“Once they step back into the state they will be arrested and brought back to the Capitol and we will be conducting business,” Abbott told Fox News‘s Laura Ingraham.