Aug 7, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Texas Dems sue state GOP members over special legislative session

Texas Legislative Black Caucus (TxLBC) Chair Rep. Nicole Collier (D-District 95), joined by fellow Democratic Texas state representatives, speaks during a news conference
Texas Legislative Black Caucus The chair, state Rep. Nicole Collier (D), joined by fellow Democratic state representatives, speaks during a news conference. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Texas Democrats sued some of the state's top Republican leaders on Friday, alleging that GOP efforts to get Democrats to return to Texas for a special legislative session infringes on their First Amendment rights.

Driving the news: The lawsuit was filed one night before a special legislative session — called by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott — was set to convene in an effort to pass restrictive new election laws, the Texas Tribune reported.

  • The lawsuit, filed by 22 House lawmakers in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, names Abbott, GOP House Speaker Dade Phelan and state Rep. James White as defendants.
  • The suit alleges they have tried to "deny, coerce, threaten, intimidate and prevent" members and their constituents from exercising their rights to "vote in all elections," "peacefully assemble to redress their grievances," "speak publicly about the exercise of their constitutional rights," "of association," "security of person," and "freedom from arrest, except upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation."
  • The Democrats who filed the suit are asking for $5 in actual damages and $10 in punitive damages.

What they're saying: "Texas House Democrats continue in our fight to stop Texas Republicans’ efforts to undermine our democracy by passing their anti-voter legislation," Rep. Chris Turner, chair of the Texas House Democratic Caucus, said in a statement.

  • "Day by day, we will keep fighting with everything we have to protect Texans’ freedom to vote," he said.

The big picture: Abbott called a special legislative session, his third attempt, for this weekend to push his election bill, which puts limits on whether people can vote early, vote by mail or vote from their cars.

  • The proposed bill also includes provisions that would increase the spending of federal COVID-19 relief funds and potentially change the legislative rules regarding quorums.
  • Phelan adjourned the chamber until Monday because not enough Democrats showed up at the Capitol on Saturday to reach the required quorum for the special legislative session, AP reports.

Go deeper: Texas Gov. Abbott announces special legislative session to push voting restrictions

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