How Long Can Texas Democrats Hold Out?

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Back in May, Texas House Democrats gained national attention for walking out of the state Capitol and preventing the legislature from having enough members to pass a stringent voting measure that would’ve further restricted access to the ballot box in a state where voting is already hard

The move was only a temporary victory for Democrats, however, as Gov. Greg Abbott called a special legislative session on July 8 to try to pass a number of conservative priority items — including a similar measure on voting restrictions. It’s expected to fail once again, though, since most of the state’s legislative Democrats left the Capitol again — this time for Washington, D.C.

Republicans in the state are angry. Abbott said that the legislators who left Texas “will be arrested” upon their return, while a number of prominent Republicans called for their Democratic colleagues to be stripped of their leadership roles


It’s less clear, though, how Texas voters will react at this point. There isn’t overwhelming support among Texans for more voting laws, but the question of how long Texas Democrats can keep up these tactics remains. What’s happening there highlights the very real limitations lawmakers face on the issue of voting rights if the federal government fails to intervene.

Most Texas voters don’t buy into the false claims of rampant voter fraud that former President Donald Trump has been pushing. In a June University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll, only 19 percent said they believed ineligible voters frequently cast ballots, while 42 percent said ineligible voters rarely or never cast ballots. Republicans, however, were more likely than Democrats to believe fraud was a recurring issue: 31 percent of GOP voters said ineligible votes were frequently cast versus just 6 percent of Democrats who said the same.

Republican officials standing around a podium while one of them speaks.

related: Why Republicans Won’t Support Sweeping Voting Rights Legislation Now … Or Anytime Soon Read more. »

Another June poll, from Quinnipiac University, yielded similar results. Exactly half of Texas voters (50 percent) said passing stricter voting laws in the state was unnecessary because elections were “already secure,” while 45 percent said passing them was necessary “to protect election integrity.” And, once again, Republicans (75 percent) were more likely than Democrats (15 percent) to believe the latter.

Certain provisions of the Republican-led bill in Texas are at least somewhat unpopular with the public, too. For instance, the bill would ban drive-thru voting, enjoyed by voters of both parties during the pandemic, but 47 percent of Texas voters said the state should not prohibit counties from offering this service, according to an April University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll. Similarly, 47 percent said the state shouldn’t prohibit counties from offering extended hours for early voting either. Other provisions in the bill, like enhancing the authority of partisan poll watchers, are also lagging in support. When Texas voters were asked in this poll whether volunteer poll watchers should be allowed to record video or audio or take pictures of voters, 52 percent said they were opposed or unsure how they felt.

At the national level, the public broadly supports making it easier to vote, according to polls. An April Pew Research Center survey found that 61 percent of Americans supported automatically registering all eligible citizens to vote, while 78 percent supported making early in-person voting available to voters for at least two weeks before Election Day. According to an April Economist/YouGov poll, 46 percent of Americans said voters should always be able to vote by mail, while 42 percent said they should be allowed to do so only if they couldn’t vote in person. And when asked in an April Quinnipiac survey whether mail-in ballot access put in place during the pandemic should become permanent, 54 percent of all Americans said yes, while 42 percent said no. (Notably, stricter voter ID laws advocated primarily by Republicans are also quite popular.) 

But this hasn’t made passing voting rights legislation easy. At the federal level, Democrats are hopelessly stuck. In June, Senate Republicans rejected Democrats’ efforts to bring the For the People Act to the floor for debate. And without eliminating the filibuster (which seems unlikely considering some of the Democratic holdouts), it’s doubtful the bill will pass the current Congress despite President Biden’s issuing strong words on the topic on Tuesday. 

Without some action at the federal level, Texas Democrats will not win their current fight either. Abbott has threatened to continue calling lawmakers back for special sessions until Democrats return, and in June he vetoed the portion of the state’s omnibus budget bill that funded salaries for lawmakers and their staff, citing Democrats’ first walkout in May. It’s also unclear how Texans would react to continual strikes in the legislature. In Oregon, where Republicans have taken walkouts to the extreme, voters have been receptive to punitive measures. According to a February poll paid for by a coalition of unions, interest groups and other organizations that call themselves No More Costly Walkouts, 84 percent of Oregon voters said they would support a state constitutional amendment disqualifying lawmakers from running in the next election if they had 10 unexcused absences from floor sessions.

The circumstances in Texas are indeed very different. But that doesn’t change the fact that Democrats may be without a long-term solution for the time being since the U.S. Congress and the Biden administration have not figured out the best path forward. Some Texas Democrats are hopeful that their actions will persuade Congress to pass a voting-rights bill that outlaws new Republican voting rules, but that is looking more like a pipe dream. More likely, Texas Democrats will only be able to delay their state’s bill — not stop it from becoming law.

Other polling bites

  • Even as Dr. Anthony Fauci predicts a surge in cases of the highly contagious delta COVID-19 variant in the U.S., Americans are divided on whether the country should require public-school children 12 and older to get vaccinated before returning to in-person school this fall. According to a June Politico-Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health poll, half of U.S. adults (50 percent) favor such a requirement, while 49 percent oppose it. When respondents with 12- to 17-year-olds in the house are factored in, those numbers change by only a slight margin (52 percent in favor versus 48 percent against). The poll found sharp partisan differences, however: 62 percent of Democrats said they supported the vaccine requirement, while 60 percent of Republicans said they opposed it.
  • Last week, Olympics officials announced a ban on in-person spectators in and around Tokyo after Japan declared a state of emergency in the capital to try to curb a new wave of COVID-19 infections. According to a recent Ipsos survey, people around the world are torn on whether the games should continue — they were already postponed last year due to the pandemic. Among respondents in the 28 countries surveyed, 43 percent on average said the Olympics should continue compared with 57 percent who said the opposite. Americans were more divided, as 52 percent said the games should go on despite the pandemic and 48 percent said they shouldn’t. (Support is significantly lower in the host country, however: 22 percent of respondents in Japan said the games should continue versus 78 percent who said they shouldn’t.) The opening ceremony is set for July 23, and the closing ceremony is scheduled for August 8.
  • With homicide rates rising in larger U.S. cities on average, more Americans are saying they want a greater law-enforcement presence in their communities despite previous polling suggesting the opposite. A Hill-HarrisX survey found that 44 percent of registered voters wanted more police and policing activity in their communities, compared with 7 percent who said they wanted less; 50 percent said they wanted the same amount. But there’s a racial divide in who wants a more extensive law-enforcement presence. While a majority of Hispanic voters (54 percent) and nearly half of white voters (46 percent) said they wanted more police, Black voters were more likely to say they wanted to keep the same amount of police in their communities (61 percent). Only 29 percent of Black voters said they wanted a bigger police presence. 
  • Britney Spears’s conservatorship is back in front of a judge at the Los Angeles County Superior Court, weeks after Spears herself pleaded for her 13-year state-imposed guardianship to end. And as her case inspires lawmakers to push for more oversight of conservatorships, public opinion appears to be on the side of the #FreeBritney movement, too. According to a Data for Progress survey, Americans overwhelmingly want Spears’s conservatorship to be ended — and the conservatorship system to be reformed. Three-quarters of voters nationwide (75 percent) support her guardianship ending, while only 11 percent are opposed. Meanwhile, 71 percent said they favored a legal alternative to conservatorship and guardianship called supported decision-making — which helps people make their own informed choices, typically with the help of family, advisers, mentors or friends of their choosing. 
  • Even as a handful of billionaires prepare for space travel, Americans don’t seem very interested in participating themselves. Per a recent YouGovAmerica survey, 42 percent of adults said they would not want to take a trip to the moon if given the opportunity and a guaranteed safe return, while half (50 percent) said they would. Notably, men (58 percent) were more likely than women (42 percent) to say they were interested. When asked why not, the biggest reason Americans gave was that they simply weren’t interested, while 9 percent said they rejected the hypothetical question’s premise of a guaranteed safe return; 8 percent said there was not a lot to see or do on the moon. 
  • Support for seceding from the United States has increased among almost every partisan group, but especially Republicans, according to the latest survey data by Bright Line Watch. Americans were asked whether they would support or oppose their state seceding from the U.S. to join another union consisting of a list of other states in that region. As the idea has been floated around more often these days by far-right figures, the poll found that support increased the most in regions where secession was already popular. So, in the South,1 support among Republicans jumped from 50 percent in January and February to 66 percent in June. And in the Mountain region,2 support among Republicans increased from 36 percent to 43 percent.

Biden approval 

According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker,3 51.1 percent of Americans approve of the job Biden is doing as president, while 42.6 percent disapprove (a net approval rating of +8.5 percentage points). At this time last week, 51.7 percent approved and 42.1 percent disapproved (a net approval rating of +9.6 points). One month ago, Biden had an approval rating of 53.0 percent and a disapproval rating of 41.2 percent (a net approval rating of +11.8 points).