OPINION: Back to work: Quorum in Legislature met, action on voting bill can begin

Texas Democratic legislators’ walkout only postponed the inevitable. After leaving the state Capitol in May and breaking a quorum to stop passage of controversial bills — a walkout that ended the regular session and lasted through one 30-day special session — lawmakers started trickling in, and on Thursday enough had returned to make quorum and enable action on the bills.

Surely, the process was frustrating for the absconders, whose main item of contention was a bill that would tighten voting restrictions and ban many of the creative ways county elections office helped people vote safely in the presidential and congressional elections during the COVID-19 pandemic. The proposed new law would prevent extended voting hours on Election Day, drive-thru voting and wider use of mail-in voting, among other measures. The Democrats fled to Washington, hoping to convince Congress members to pass federal election laws that would override such state restrictions.

Unfortunately, the state lawmakers ran into two hurdles. The first was Congress’ scheduled recess for the entire month of August, when no action would be taken, and the second was Congress members’ reluctance to take any action on voting rights, as it might eliminate one of their primary topics for the 2022 election campaign. Don’t expect any action in Washington on voting rights — or on any major issue including immigration — until after November of next year.

One of those House Democrats who returned and allowed business to resume is state Rep. Eddie Lucio III of Brownsville.

The Texas Senate always enjoyed a quorum, and already has done most of its work on the slate of issues Gov. Greg Abbott asked them to address. Once the House acts and the two chambers reconcile any amendments and other differences in their versions of the legislation, passage should come quickly.

We then can move on to the next steps, which includes expected lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the new voter restrictions.

The process also will give the American public one of the best opportunities to evaluate the success of Republican lawmakers’ efforts to control the Supreme Court by refusing to consider Barack Obama’s final court appointment and rushing through a late Trump nomination. Challenges to new voter restrictions by Texas and other states surely will reach the high court, where its ruling and individual justices’ writings are sure to raise questions on whether their primary loyalties are to the Constitution or to their respective political factions.

Most importantly, it helps give Texas voters information they can use during the 2022 elections. Every House seat will be on the ballot and most incumbents will be running for reelection. Many people have said that in fleeing the state, the Democrats were avoiding their duty; others have said that in preventing what they consider bad legislation from passing, even by using extreme measures, they actually were, in fact, doing their jobs.

Constituents’ votes in November 2022 in large measure will determine whether or not voters support the legislators’ actions.

Whether or not the legality of new voting restrictions is determined in our courts or at the ballot box, we hope the result provides us with the most open, fair and secure election process possible.