Abbott’s Undemocratic Call for Special Legislative Session Is Exactly Why Texans Need Federal Action to Protect Voting Rights

AUSTIN, Texas — Thursday, in a massive concession to extreme right forces within the Texas Republican Party, disgraced Gov. Greg Abbott announced that he will add a special legislative session to Texas’ calendar this year — a move which Abbott himself called “goofy” barely a week ago. A global pandemic has not once merited a special session in Abbott’s view — but apparently, his own party’s failure to achieve its backwards goals does. Texas’ state legislature normally meets for five months once every two years, as it did this spring.

Abbott’s undemocratic flipflop can only be for one reason: after Democrats’ show of unity and leadership quashed Republicans’ racist, ableist attempt to slash Texans’ voting rights, Abbott is seeking to revive the hateful bill, as well as other extreme-right bills that Republicans were unable to pass during the legislative session this spring. Despite holding a majority in both the Texas House and Senate, House Speaker Dade Phelan and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick failed to pass several priority Republican bills this spring — thanks to the tireless efforts of Democrats in standing up for their constituents and blocking a major portion of Republicans’ assaults on the rights of Texans.

Abbott’s decision to call a special session is anti-democratic and yet another example of Republicans trying to go around the rules when it suits them. The deeply unpopular Texas GOP is struggling to hold onto power — so Republicans are trying to revive their voter suppression bill in order to stop Texans from being able to vote them out in the next election. In the face of these attacks, Texas Democrats — from local to state to federal officials — have been united in urging Congress to pass federal protections for voting rights, including through a letter to Congress signed by all members of the Texas Democratic Congressional delegation. Abbott’s move shows why the need for these protections is so urgent.

Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa issued the following statement:

“Texas Republicans control the Texas House, the Texas Senate, and the governorship. However, they still failed to pass a slew of damaging, anti-Texan, backwards bills that were unfortunately a priority for Republicans this spring — because Democrats fought tooth and nail to block Republicans’ attacks on Texans. Now, Greg Abbott is going back on his word and calling an extra legislative session so that Texas Republicans can have more time to attack Texans’ rights. Not once, during a pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than 50,000 Texans, did Abbott call legislators together to respond to the crisis — but now, he’s calling a special session just to push Republicans’ twisted priorities into law. This is wrong, undemocratic, and exactly what we’d expect from Texas Republicans, who are trying to cling to power no matter the cost.

“Republicans want a second chance to pass racist, anti-voter SB 7 — and stop Black and Brown Texans and voters with disabilities from being able to vote. Our right to vote is our chance to determine our own future and the future of our communities, and Texas Democrats have shown powerful leadership fighting to protect Texans’ right to vote. We are urging every Democrat in Congress to do the right thing and pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. Every day with Texas Republicans in power is another reminder of why we sorely need federal protections for voting rights. Every day we wait puts democracy as we know it in danger.”