State Senator Alvarado filibusters to block Voter Restriction bill

Senator Carol Alvarado speaking at the Texas Legislature during her 15-hour filibuster.
Senator Carol Alvarado speaking at the Texas Legislature during her 15-hour filibuster.

Texas Senate outlasts 15-hour filibuster by Senator Carol Alvarado to pass GOP voting restrictions bill

AUSTIN, Texas — Since before sunset Wednesday, state Sen. Carol Alvarado had been on her feet speaking, not allowed to sit or lean against her desk, on the Senate floor.

Unable to take bathroom breaks or drink water, she had worn a back brace, eyeglasses and running shoes and talked slowly behind a desk stacked with papers and with a microphone in her hand as she mounted a 15-hour filibuster. The target of her efforts was Senate Bill 1, the GOP’s priority bill that would place new restrictions on voting that many opponents say would disproportionately suppress ballots from voters of color and disabled voters.

But ultimately, her speaking marathon could only delay the passage of the bill in the Republican-controlled Senate. Shortly after she finally stepped away from her desk around 9 a.m., the Senate voted to advance the measure on a 18-11 party-line vote.

With her Democratic colleagues surrounding her desk on the Senate floor after her marathon, Alvarado invoked her Houston constituents – the voters who took advantage of the voting options SB 1 would ban – and asked why they should not be allowed as many opportunities to vote as the county was willing to offer.

“As we draw this discussion to an end, it is my sincere hope that civil acts by everyday Texans, from the Senate floor to the ballot box, can help to shed the light on all important issues,” Alvarado said Thursday morning. “What do we want our democracy to look like?”

Alvarado’s filibuster began just before 5:50 p.m. Wednesday, and likely will end up being more of a symbolic gesture than a credible attempt to block passage of the voting bill. Her ending the filibuster clears a path for the Senate to grant final passage to SB 1 on Thursday. When she took the floor, the Legislature was on just the fifth day of a 30-day special session, called as Democrats have left the House without enough members present for the Republican majority in that chamber to pass legislation.

That left plenty of time for the Senate to pass the legislation despite the temporary delay. But Alvarado said she felt compelled to filibuster to “put the brakes on” the bill and delay its final approval to shine a spotlight on its provisions.

“Senate Bill 1 slowly but surely chips away at our democracy. It adds rather than removes barriers for Texas seniors, persons with disabilities, African Americans, Asian and Latino voters from the political process,” Alvarado said at the onset of her effort. “[President Lyndon B. Johnson] said the Voting Rights Act struck away the last major shackle of the fierce and ancient bond of slavery. Senate Bill 1 is a regressive step back in the direction of that dark and painful history.”

Alvarado filled the time by recounting portions of the history of the fight for voting rights, reading testimony on the bill that her office collected from the public and going over portions of the bill in excruciating detail with assists from Democratic Senate colleagues who took turns asking her lengthy questions, often speaking at a much slower tempo than usual, in what appeared at times to be a largely empty Senate chamber.

As the filibuster stretched into the early morning, Alvarado read messages being sent to her by voters and Democratic elected officials urging her effort on.

Republican senators and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who presides over the chamber, appeared to be drifting in and out as the night went on, but made no efforts in to raise procedural objections that might cut her off.

— Article courtesy of the Texas Tribune