On Tuesday, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that Democrats who left the Capitol to deny the legislature the quorum required for an election bill could be arrested.
The court also ordered that lower courts vacate temporary restraining orders that had prevented Texas House Democrats from being arrested.
The order is significant because it establishes that it is constitutional in Texas to require members of the legislature to return to the state Capitol, which can include compelling members by arrest, the Texas Tribune reported.
“The legal question before this Court concerns only whether the Texas Constitution gives the House of Representatives the authority to physically compel the attendance of absent members. We conclude that it does, and we therefore direct the district court to withdraw the TRO,” Justice Jimmy Blacklock said in the state Supreme Court’s opinion, according to KXAN Austin.
Earlier this summer, Texas House Democrats fled the state in order to deny the lower chamber the quorum required to vote on an election bill that critics say would restrict voting rights in the state. To form a quorum, a quorum of one hundred members is required.
If passed, the GOP-backed legislation would prohibit voting centers open 24 hours a day, straight ticket voting, and voting facilities in outdoor structures. The bill would also restrict the use of ballot drop boxes.
House Speaker Dade Phelan (R) signed arrest warrants for the 52 Democrats in an attempt to compel them to return to the state House, but those warrants were temporarily shielded by lower court rulings.