From 5:50 p.m. CDT Wednesday to around 9 a.m. CDT Thursday morning, Texas state Sen. Carol Alvarado (D) spoke almost nonstop, without taking a break to use the bathroom or even sipping water, as the 53-year-old toiled to stop a GOP bill that would impose voting restrictions in Texas.
Alvarado used the filibuster, which didn’t allow her to sit or even lean against her desk, to delay a vote on Senate Bill 1.
The bill proposes a slew of new voting restrictions in Texas, notably limiting the number of ballot drop boxes across the state and making it harder to vote by mail.
Alvarado filled the time by recalling voting rights history, and at one point took more than two hours’ worth of questioning from another Democratic senator.
Alvarado took up the filibuster knowing the action was largely symbolic, since the bill will likely pass the Senate before failing in the state House, which does not have a quorum present since dozens of Democratic lawmakers have fled to Washington, D.C., to block the legislation from passing.
SB 1 is the principal reason Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has called two special sessions of the legislature, which he has vowed to continue to convene until the bill is passed. The first two special sessions have been held up by a lack of a quorum in the state House, after 57 Democrats fled for Washington in mid-July, but Democrats have started trickling back into the state, and 52 arrest warrants have been issued for Democrats that have not yet returned to the capitol. They might be compelled to provide the quorum needed for Republicans to pass the bill. State Rep. Eddie Lucio, a Democrat who fled to D.C. but later returned to Texas, told The Texas Tribune he believes the House might reach a quorum “as early as this week.”
Alvarado’s filibuster sparked memories of the 2013 filibuster from state Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Tex.), who spoke for 13 hours to block a bill aimed at limiting abortion rights in the state. The bill ended up passing, but the filibuster elevated Davis to prominence. She became the Democratic nominee for governor in 2014, though she lost handily against Abbott in the general election, picking up only 39% of the vote.