AUSTIN, Texas – Democrats walked out of Texas House in protest Sunday night in an attempt to kill a GOP-backed ballot bill that would make it easier to quash an election and implement various voting restrictions.

By 10:45 p.m., the last remaining Democrats were to maintain a quorum of 100 members out of the chamber. Debate on the bill came to a screeching halt as Republicans huddled around Republican President Dade Phelan. Representative Carl Sherman, a Democrat, said members had no choice but to withdraw from the vote.

“Unfortunately, it seems like this is the only option we have, according to a senior Republican Party official who said we would not have a chance to speak out against the bill,” Sherman told the Dallas. Morning News. “And it’s not a democracy for me. I guess they were tired of hearing our opinions about it. They decided they were going to stick this down our throats.”

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Democrats walked out without fanfare, spreading out in groups and heading towards a church in the area.

This is only the fourth time that Texas lawmakers have broken the quorum to protest the passage of a bill. The last time was in 2003, when a group of about 50 Democrats fled the state in the middle of the night to Oklahoma to protest the redistribution. The rare protest demonstration took place twice before this, in 1979 and 1870.

It was not known where or for how long the Democrats would be hiding. The legislative session ends today, and anything not passed before midnight is effectively dead for the year – unless the governor revives it in a special session. Late Sunday, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted that he would do just that.

“Electoral integrity and bail reform were hot spots for this legislative session. They must ALWAYS pass,” Abbott tweeted. “They will be added to the special session agenda. Lawmakers are expected to have worked out the details when they arrive on Capitol Hill for the special session.”

Voting in the House is the latest obstacle in sending Abbott a series of electoral changes that would eliminate drive-thru voting, empower pro-ballot observers and impose new requirements to vote by mail in Texas.

Earlier Sunday, the Texas Senate beefed up the bill shortly after sunrise after putting it to a vote in the middle of the night on Memorial Day weekend, when the State Capitol was almost empty.

Republicans have added language that could make it easier for a judge to overturn an election and push the start of voting to Sunday, when many black worshipers go to the polls. The measure would also eliminate drive-thru voting and 24-hour voting centers, both introduced by Harris County last year.

The bill would empower pro-election observers by allowing them greater access to polling stations and threatening criminal sanctions against election officials who restrict their movement.

Texas is the latest major battleground in the GOP’s efforts to tighten election laws, prompted by claims by former President Donald Trump that the 2020 election has been stolen. Georgia and Florida have passed new restrictions, and President Joe Biden on Saturday called the Texas bill an “assault on democracy.”

Election officials would also face new criminal penalties, including felony charges for sending postal ballot requests to people who did not ask for them. The Texas District and County Attorneys Association said it counted at least 16 new, expanded or improved election-related crimes in the bill.

The change “will disengage, disenfranchise,” said Democratic state representative Nicole Collier, chair of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus.

Pressed on why Sunday’s vote couldn’t start sooner, Republican Senator Bryan Hughes said: “Election officials want to go to church too.”

Collier was one of three Democrats chosen to negotiate the final version, none of whom signed his name. She said she saw a draft around 11 p.m. Friday and was asked for her signature the next morning.

Senior Republican negotiators Hughes and State Representative Briscoe Cain called the bill “one of the most comprehensive and sane electoral reform bills” in Texas history.

Information for this article was provided by Lauren McGaughy and Gromer Jeffers Jr. of The Dallas Morning News (TNS); and by Paul J. Weber and Acacia Coronado of the Associated Press.

State Representative Nicole Collier, D- Fort Worth, Chair of the Black Legislative Caucus, speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill on Sunday, May 30, 2021, against Senate Bill 7, known as name of Electoral Integrity Protection Act. (Jay Janner / Austin American-Statesman via AP)

State Representative Ron Reynolds, D - Missouri City, speaks at a press conference on Capitol Hill on Sunday, May 30, 2021, against Senate Bill 7, known as the Protection of electoral integrity.  New restrictions on voting in Texas are one step away from the governor's office.  Texas Senate Republicans rallied Sunday morning with a sweeping measure that would eliminate drive-thru voting and empower supporters of the poll.  It would also place new limits on Sunday voting, when many black practitioners will go to the polls.  (Jay Janner / Austin American-Statesman via AP)

State Representative Ron Reynolds, D – Missouri City, speaks at a press conference on Capitol Hill on Sunday, May 30, 2021, against Senate Bill 7, known as the Protection of electoral integrity. New restrictions on voting in Texas are one step away from the governor’s office. Texas Senate Republicans rallied Sunday morning with a sweeping measure that would eliminate drive-thru voting and empower supporters of the poll. It would also place new limits on Sunday voting, when many black practitioners will go to the polls. (Jay Janner / Austin American-Statesman via AP)

Armando Walle, 10, left, and his brother Joaquin Walle accompany their father, State Representative Armando Walle, D-Houston, right, on the floor of the House on the Capitol, the penultimate day of the 87th Texas Legislature, Sunday May 30, 2021 (Jay Janner / Austin American-Statesman via AP)

Armando Walle, 10, left, and his brother Joaquin Walle accompany their father, State Representative Armando Walle, D-Houston, right, on the floor of the House on the Capitol, the penultimate day of the 87th Texas Legislature, Sunday May 30, 2021 (Jay Janner / Austin American-Statesman via AP)

FILE - In this May 6, 2021 file photo, a group opposing the new election legislation meets outside the House Chamber at the Texas Capitol in Austin, Texas.  Texas Republicans dug Saturday, May 29 for a final weekend vote on some of the most restrictive new election laws in the United States, finalizing a sweeping bill that would eliminate drive-thru voting, cut voting hours and reduce the Sunday vote, as many black worshipers go to the polls.  (AP Photo / Eric Gay, file)

FILE – In this May 6, 2021 file photo, a group opposing the new election legislation meets outside the House Chamber at the Texas Capitol in Austin, Texas. Texas Republicans dug Saturday, May 29 for a final weekend vote on some of the most restrictive new election laws in the United States, finalizing a sweeping bill that would eliminate drive-thru voting, cut voting hours and reduce the Sunday vote, as many black worshipers go to the polls. (AP Photo / Eric Gay, file)

State Representative Briscoe Cain, R - Deer Park, works at his desk on the House floor on the Capitol on Sunday, May 30, 2021, ahead of the debate on Senate Bill 7, known as the protection of electoral integrity.  (Jay Janner / Austin American-Statesman via AP)

State Representative Briscoe Cain, R – Deer Park, works at his desk on the House floor on the Capitol on Sunday, May 30, 2021, ahead of the debate on Senate Bill 7, known as the protection of electoral integrity. (Jay Janner / Austin American-Statesman via AP)

State Representative Nicole Collier, D- Fort Worth, Chair of the Black Legislative Caucus, speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill on Sunday, May 30, 2021, against Senate Bill 7, known as name of Electoral Integrity Protection Act.  New restrictions on voting in Texas are one step away from the governor's office.  Texas Senate Republicans rallied Sunday morning with a sweeping measure that would eliminate drive-thru voting and empower supporters of the poll.  (Jay Janner / Austin American-Statesman via AP)

State Representative Nicole Collier, D- Fort Worth, Chair of the Black Legislative Caucus, speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill on Sunday, May 30, 2021, against Senate Bill 7, known as name of Electoral Integrity Protection Act. New restrictions on voting in Texas are one step away from the governor’s office. Texas Senate Republicans rallied Sunday morning with a sweeping measure that would eliminate drive-thru voting and empower supporters of the poll. (Jay Janner / Austin American-Statesman via AP)

Gary Bledsoe, president of the Texas NAACP, speaks at a press conference on Capitol Hill on Sunday, May 30, 2021 against Senate Bill 7, known as the Election Integrity Protection Act.  New restrictions on voting in Texas are one step away from the governor's office.  Texas Senate Republicans rallied Sunday morning with a sweeping measure that would eliminate drive-thru voting and empower supporters of the poll.  It would also place new limits on Sunday voting, when many black worshipers will go to the polls.  (Jay Janner / Austin American-Statesman via AP)

Gary Bledsoe, president of the Texas NAACP, speaks at a press conference on Capitol Hill on Sunday, May 30, 2021 against Senate Bill 7, known as the Election Integrity Protection Act. New restrictions on voting in Texas are one step away from the governor’s office. Texas Senate Republicans rallied Sunday morning with a sweeping measure that would eliminate drive-thru voting and empower supporters of the poll. It would also place new limits on Sunday voting, when many black practitioners will go to the polls. (Jay Janner / Austin American-Statesman via AP)



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