The Texas House received a message from a Senate “Bee Man,” one of 12 state senators nicknamed the “Killer Bees,” who hid offsite to prevent the 31-member Senate from reaching a quorum on two bills, in 1979. Photo courtesy of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

In a Tuesday afternoon address that matched the heat wave suffocating the country this summer, President Joe Biden called state legislation to restrict voting “the most significant test to our Democracy since the Civil War.” 

“I’m not saying this to alarm you,” Biden said. “I’m saying this because you should be alarmed.” 

Biden issued his plea to protect voting rights while Texas Democrats camped in Washington, D.C. after fleeing their state as if their homes were burning to block state GOP’s attempts to pass restrictions on voting. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott threatened to arrest them (while the NAACP offered to pay their bail). Abbott also promised more special sessions until a vote could be called, and the state Democrats acknowledged that they couldn’t stay under the safe shadow of Washington for long. 

“We can’t hold this tide back forever. We’re buying some time. We need Congress and all of our federal leaders to use that time wisely,” Democratic state Rep. Chris Turner said.

The bills include bans on drive-through voting and 24-hour voting, methods pioneered by the Democratic Harris County last year, and changes that include new identification requirements for absentee ballots and prohibiting groups and officials from sending absentee ballots to voters who haven’t requested them.

Texas voters protested the reforms, including groups led by activists under 25 who said the drive-through and 24-hour voting were used predominantly by young and diverse voters who don’t always work the shifts of their older and wealthier counterparts. More than 150 companies that need those shifts covered endorsed federal legislation that would override state restrictions, including Starbucks, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola. 

Republican lawmakers have overhauled their states’ voting laws since former President Donald Trump’s baseless assertions that the election was fixed, leading his followers to breach the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. In his speech, Biden once again criticized Trump, calling those assertions “a big lie” and “selfish.” Biden also acknowledged that federal legislation would be difficult to pass in the deadlocked Senate without a filibuster reform and said he would try different tactics that included educating voters and convincing Republicans to ease up on the restrictions. 

But Abbott expressed concern about drive-thru voting on Fox News (which refused to air Biden’s speech) by saying it could have a “coercive effect” on voters. He also said policies need to be in place to protect the integrity of ballots. 

“If you do drive-thru voting, are you going to have people in the car with you? It could be somebody from your employer or somebody else that may have some coercive effect on the way that you would cast your ballot, which is contrary to you going into the ballot box, alone and no one there watching over your shoulder,” he said.

MEDIA PERSPECTIVES

This section includes an aggregation of articles showing different viewpoints on the topic.

On Their First Day in D.C., the Rogue Texas Democrats Grappled With the Gravity of Their Decision – Slate Magazine – 7/13/2021
On their first morning in Washington, almost all the Democrats in the Texas House of Representatives walked up Capitol Hill just before 10 a.m. Some had arrived in D.C. on Monday evening; others were fresh off the plane. As the members passed a small crowd of reporters and Texan Hill staffers, Rep. Ramon Romero of Fort Worth raised his hand in a fist.

What Is Biden’s Over The Top Voting Rights Rhetoric Really All About? – Conservative Review – 7/14/2021
In a lie-riddled address from Philadelphia Tuesday (on the same day Texas Democrats bragged about their efforts to take down a GOP election integrity bill by fleeing their home state), Biden railed against Republican-led state legislatures that are considering or have already passed voting reforms to cut down on potential fraud.

Biden says voting rights laws are a ‘national imperative’. Reforming the filibuster must be too. – The Guardian – 7/14/2021
President Biden delivered two-fifths of a major address on democracy reform. He connected the wave of Republican anti-voting laws to the 6 January attack on the Capitol and the insidious legacy of segregation and Jim Crow. He rightly referred to Republicans’ authoritarian efforts as “the most dangerous threat to voting and the integrity of fair and free elections in our history”. Largely absent from the president’s remarks, however, was a solution. 

What you need to know about hotly debated US voting laws – Aljazerra – 7/14/2021
As the fight over voting laws intensifies throughout the United States, Democrats and Republicans are defining it as an existential battle.

President Biden’s pathetic attempt to rig the rules – Washington Examiner – 7/13/2021
Before 2020, drive-thru voting was virtually non-existent in the United States. But now that the state of Texas has banned the practice after it was used by some localities in the 2020 election, suddenly our democracy cannot survive without it.

Biden speech unlikely to quash progressive angst – The Hill – 7/13/2021
A number of Democrats have been disappointed that Biden hasn’t used his platform to pressure Democratic senators to end the legislative filibuster.

Reality check: What’s really in the Texas voting reform bill? – Just The News – 7/14/2021
The fleeing Democrats have cast the bill in an apocalyptic light as a full-scale attack on core voting rights, but the legislation, formed by one bill in the Texas House and one in the Texas Senate, is mostly a modest reform of the state’s voting rules, relative to both existing law and other, slightly more far-reaching bills passed by other state legislatures in recent months.

Police pursuits and ‘Killer Bees’: What happened when Texas Democrats broke quorum in the past – NBC News – 7/14/2021
As a young senator in the Texas Legislature, he was a pioneer of the kind of scrappy delay tactics Texas Democratic legislators have used in their fight to block election restrictions advanced by the Legislature’s Republican majorities.

Texas Democrats Make Big Publicity Stunts Out Of Objectively Uncontroversial Voting Integrity Laws – The Daily Caller – 7/13/2021
Suggestions that requiring a social security number to vote absentee is worse than the era of poll taxes and literacy tests that kept African-Americans from the polls have become common talking points out of the White House.

Biden Is Not Meeting the Moment on Voting Rights – The Nation – 7/14/2021
It wasn’t deliberate; Biden’s speech was previously planned. But it symbolized the current mismatch between the urgency of grassroots Democrats and Biden’s go-slower, speechifying approach to solving the crisis of democracy.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVES

This section includes an aggregation of tweets showing different viewpoints on the topic.

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