The meeting follows the May walkout by the Democratic members of the Texas House of Representatives on the last day of the Texas legislative session which prevented the passage of Senate Bill 7, considered one of the most restrictive voting bills in the U.S.
Ten Texas House and Texas Senate members received an invitation to meet Harris for the round table on voting.
Among the group who met Harris were several members of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus (MALC). Chairman of the MALC, Texas State Rep. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas) released a statement after the meeting saying in part, "The fight to protect our freedom to vote continues after our historic quorum break that prevented the passage of Senate Bill 7, the omnibus voter suppression bill."
The Texas legislators also met with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and others to talk about the importance of U.S. Congress passing the For The People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.
DEMOCRATS WALK OUT ON FINAL HOUSE OF TEXAS LEGISLATIVE SESSION
On March 30, the Texas House had a deadline of midnight to get Senate Bill 7 to Texas Governor Greg Abbott's desk but Democrats essentially ran the clock. The Texas Senate had passed the GOP-led SB7 early Sunday morning so it was up to the House to pass it in the remaining hours of the session.
As Democrats spoke out about the bill last night, one by one they began leaving the House floor. At around 10:30 p.m. the remaining Democratic members walked out of the chamber and prevented the House from having the quorum it needed to hold a vote on the bill.
Democrats say they walked out for several reasons including new provisions being added to the bill at the last minute and debate being cut off. The dramatic act was something that hadn't been done in almost two decades.
"Until they're willing to listen to us and we can make these decisions together, then we're going to stand united and we're going to fight for the State of Texas," said state Rep. Jessica González (D-Dallas). "We came together to say that enough is enough because the people of Texas deserve better."
Several voting rights organizations including MOVE Texas, Texas Civil Rights Project, Common Cause Texas, ACLU Texas, and Texas Freedom Network have also spoken out against SB 7.
The stoppage of the bill is only temporary as Gov. Abbott is expected to call a special legislative session to address SB7. Abbott snapped back at Democrats after the walkout by tweeting he will veto Article 10 of the state budget. He wrote, "no pay for those who abandon their responsibilities".
WHY IS SENATE BILL 7 OR SB7 SO CONTROVERSIAL?
The 67-page bill tackled a variety of voting-related issues. It prohibits 24-hour polling centers, ballot drop boxes, and drive-thru voting. It also limits early voting hours to between the hours of 6 a.m. and 9 p.m., with the exception of Sunday mornings.
Voters would have to request a mail-in ballot in order to vote by mail and provide a driver’s license number or Social Security number.
Under revisions during closed-door negotiations, Republicans also added language to the measure that could have made it easier for a judge to overturn an election.
Texas is the last big battleground in Republicans’ campaign to tighten voting laws, driven by former President Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him. Georgia and Florida have also passed new voting restrictions, and Biden has unfavorably compared Texas’ bill to election changes in those states as "an assault on democracy."
Republicans claim the bill was about voting integrity and making sure elections are fair but Democrats say the bill amounted to voter suppression, particularly for voters of color and those with disabilities.