The NAACP Wednesday called on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate Texas over the arrest warrants issued by the Texas House speaker for the Democrats who fled the state to block Republicans’ efforts to pass an election security bill.
“I write on behalf of the NAACP, the oldest civil rights organization in the United States, on behalf of those persons in Texas fearful of a government that has determined it need not abide by the U.S. Constitution, and may arrest and imprison citizens for their political beliefs,” NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson wrote.
“There is not allegation that any of the Democrats to be arrested has committed any crime. Instead, they are to be arrested because of their protected political views and affiliations,” he added. “At a time when political minorities are threatened with being rounded up and imprisoned in Texas, the eyes of the county and the world are upon the DOJ and how it deals with Texas’ actions. We urge the DOJ to open an investigation and take immediate steps to prevent the threatened unlawful arrests.”
The letter comes as the DOJ is taking a tougher stance against states changing their election laws. It issued guidance late last month indicating that it might sue states for returning to pre-pandemic voting rules after the coronavirus subsides.
The department already sued Georgia over a controversial election security law it passed earlier this year. Now, Johnson wants the Biden administration to take action against Texas for similar reasons.
“[B]y leaving the state, Democrats in the Texas legislature have foiled attempts by Republicans in that state to adopt election laws that would have the clear effect of permitting 40 percent of the population to dominate Texas for the foreseeable future,” Johnson said. “The proposed legislation presents what can easily be described as a continuum of discrimination from voter registration to counting ballots, declaring winners, and other post-election activities.”
He added: “Without DOJ’s protection, it is more than likely that those intent on subverting democracy in Texas will be successful in their efforts.”
Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, a Republican, issued civil arrest warrants this week for the Democratic lawmakers who broke quorum and thus blocked the GOP’s efforts to pass its elections bill. The civil arrest, which is different than a criminal arrest, would be solely for the purpose of bringing the lawmakers back to the state capitol to provide quorum. The warrants were made possible by a ruling from the Texas Supreme Court removing a temporary restraining order from a lower court that barred the legislature from issuing the warrants.
Republicans say the Texas Democrats are ducking responsibilities as they spend time in Washington, D.C., advocating for S.1, a bill that would massively expand the role of the federal government in state-run elections.
“Texans don’t run from their responsibilities. Elected officials shouldn’t either,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a Facebook post reacting to the Texas Supreme Court’s order earlier this week. “It’s time for Democrats to return to work.”
The Texas Democrats maintain that they will stay in Washington, D.C., until Republicans in their state drop efforts to pass their elections bill. They also argue that the arrest warrants are illegal.
“It is no surprise that Republican Governor Greg Abbott and House Speaker Dade Phelan want to arrest their political opponents,” the Democrats said in a statement earlier this week. “Thankfully, this is still the United States of America. We will defend the freedom to vote, and we look forward to our temporary injunction hearing on August 20th.”
Fox News’ Jacqui Heinrich contributed to this report.