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Texas Gov. Abbott calls special session, setting stage for GOP to revive voting restrictions

Democrats staged a rare walkout to block a sweeping election bill in the final hours of the regular session in May.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is calling lawmakers back to Austin on July 8 for a special legislative session, where a controversial election legislation Democrats have decried as voter suppression is expected to be back on the agenda.

Democrats blocked a sweeping election bill in the final hours of the legislative session last month by staging a rare walkout and breaking quorum. Abbott, who had told lawmakers the legislation was one of his top priorities, responded furiously and vowed to force lawmakers back to Austin for a special session.

The governor’s office did not confirm that the July 8 session would include election legislation, but Abbott had previously said he planned to call two special sessions: one focused on elections and bail reform, followed by a second session in September or October focused on redistricting and allocating federal coronavirus funds throughout the state.

It’s unclear whether Texas Republicans will attempt to write a new elections bill or reintroduce the version that failed last month. That measure, Senate Bill 7, would have banned drive-through voting, limited voting hours, made it more difficult to cast mail ballots and empowered partisan poll watchers.

Last week, Abbott also made good on his threat to veto pay in the budget for legislative staff. It's unclear how that will effect the special sessions when the budget takes effect September 1.

Texas Democrats were in Washington last week to meet with Vice President Kamala Harris and lobby senators to pass the For the People Act, a bill that's expected to be blocked on Tuesday evening by Republicans. Texas Democratic state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer organized hundreds of state lawmakers to sign a letter urging Congress to pass the bill.

“We are out of options. We need your help,” the group wrote in the letter released Tuesday.