A group of 22 Democrat Texas lawmakers that fled the state to block a vote on voting reform are now suing Republican Gov. Greg Abbott for violating their civil rights when he ordered them back to the state.
The lawsuit is the latest round of the saga between the Republicans and the governor, who is call special sessions of the state legislature to pass a voter reform bill, and a group of Texas House Democrats who have avoided the Capitol to put off voting on the bill.
The "fugitive" group of Democrat lawmakers put off two votes on the bill by leaving the chamber during a midnight session, and then 50 fled the state in a charter plane to Washington, D.C., to again avoid the measure from coming to a vote in the majority Republican House.
Gov. Abbott, as authorized under the Texas state Constitution, ordered them back under threat of arrest to vote on the bill.
Now, a group of 22 are suing Abbott and other Republican leaders, claiming their civil rights, namely the right to assemble, were violated, according to the Texas Tribune.
The group is suing for $5 each in actual damages, and another $10 each in punitive damages, according to the lawsuit.
Democrats in the state say the voting reform bill restricts citizens in casting their ballots, while Republicans say the bill expands opportunities for people to vote by increasing the times and early voting days.
President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and other national Democrats have called the bill "Jim Crow 2.0" and consider the Texas Democrat legislators "heroes" for standing against the measure, often comparing them to the civil rights leaders of the 1950s and 1960s.
Abbott called for another special legislative session starting Saturday to vote on the bill, but Democrats blocked a quorum by not showing up.
The suit claims Abbott and state Republican leaders, Texas House Speaker Dade Phalen, and Rep. James White "discriminated" against them by conducting a scheme to "deny, coerce, threaten, intimidate, and prevent" the Democrats from the right to vote in all elections, right to peaceably assemble, the right to speak publicly about exercising their constitutional rights, their right of association, and the right not to be arrested without probable cause.
The 22 plaintiffs claim the Republican actions have caused them undue "anxiety and distress" for being separated from their families and experienced "discomfort and embarrassment, and had their reputations impaired," as well as spending money to leave the state.
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