US president Joe Biden. File photo: REUTERS/KEN CEDENO
US president Joe Biden. File photo: REUTERS/KEN CEDENO

A Texas voting-rights bill that drew criticism from President Joe Biden at the weekend failed to pass late on Sunday night as Democrats left the chambers before the vote.

“A number of members have chosen to disrupt the legislative process by abandoning the legislative chamber before our work was done,” Speaker Dade Phelan said. “In doing so, these members killed a number of strong, consequential bills,” he said, including those with bipartisan support.

Lawmakers in the Republican-controlled Texas legislature finalised the draft legislation, which governor Greg Abbott and other state leaders say will ensure election integrity. The state’s Democratic Party labelled it an attempt at suppression that makes it harder to vote by mail, limits voting hours and adds barriers to voter registration.

“Texans shouldn’t have to pay the consequences of these members’ actions — or in this case, inaction — especially at a time when a majority of Texans have exhibited clear and express support for making our elections stronger and more secure,” Phelan added.

Biden earlier called the bill “an assault on democracy” that targets minorities, stepping into the latest partisan battle over changes spearheaded by Republicans after the 2020 presidential election.

“It’s wrong and un-American,” Biden said on Saturday, drawing comparisons to similar legislation in Georgia and Florida. “In the 21st century, we should be making it easier, not harder, for every eligible voter to vote.”

The move only put a temporary stop to the bill. Abbott, a Republican, said the outcome on Sunday night was “deeply disappointing” and a special session of the legislature will be added.

“Ensuring the integrity of our elections and reforming a broken bail system remain emergencies in Texas,” he said, adding in a tweet that “they STILL must pass”.

American Airlines Group and Dell Technologies, both based in Texas, have expressed opposition to the legislature’s efforts to limit voting rights.

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