Texas House speaker signs warrants to arrest Democrats who left state over voting bill

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The civil arrest warrants seek to compel 52 House Democrats back to the state Capitol.

Texas' GOP House Speaker Dade Phelan signed arrest warrants Tuedsay night for 52 Democratic state representatives who have been absent from the state Capitol as they seek to block voting restrictions the Republican-controlled Legislature is trying to pass, the Dallas Morning News reported.

The state House voted on Tuesday 80-12 to issue the civil arrest warrants, which do not carry criminal charges or fines. They will be sent to the state House sergeant-at-arms on Wednesday morning to be carried out, a spokesperson for Phelan told the Dallas Morning News.

The vote occurred after the Texas Supreme Court ruled earlier on Tuesday that the state House was within its rights to arrest the Democratic lawmakers who have been absent from the capitol for roughly a month.

The Democratic lawmakers had been in Washington, D.C., trying to convince Congress to pass federal voting rights legislation, as well as build opposition to Texas' voter suppression bill.

GOP Gov. Greg Abbott said last month that he supported arresting the Democratic lawmakers to compel them back to the capitol.

"As soon as they come back in the state of Texas, they will be arrested, they will be cabined inside the Texas Capitol until they get their job done," Abbott told local television station KVUE in July. "Everybody who has a job must show up to do that job, just like your viewers on watching right now. State representatives have that same responsibility."

Only one Republican lawmaker — state Rep. Lyle Larson — voted against the arrest warrants. Larson does not support the voter suppression bill, which makes it harder to vote by mail, cuts back on early voting hours, and gives more rights to poll workers.

"Arresting members to come to the house floor. Have we got to the point where we believe our own bull shizz so much that we arrest our own colleagues?" Larson tweeted. "Civil discourse took a nasty turn today."

Democratic lawmakers appeared unmoved by the arrest warrants.

"We broke quorum because anti-voter bills are nefarious attempts to disenfranchise Texans & these authoritarian motions by Republicans just cement that we are on the right side of history," Democratic state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez tweeted after the arrest warrants passed. "We must hold the line against these desperate attempts to destroy our democracy."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.