Sen. Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury) carried Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 35 in the Texas Senate, where it passed by a vote of 29 to 1. Sen. Sarah Eckhardt (D-Austin) was the only Democrat to vote against the bill. In fact, the legislation passed unanimously in committee in both chambers.
The constitutional amendment would have added language to the Texas Constitution that “persons who are not citizens of the United States” are disqualified from voting in elections. Constitutional amendments require the approval of two-thirds of each house of the Legislature as well as a majority of Texas voters.
When SJR 35 came up for a vote in the House on Wednesday afternoon, the result was 88 ayes to 0 nays. While no one voted against the bill, 54 members registered “present, not voting.” The measure needed 100 votes to pass, spelling its end.
The only House Democrats to vote for SJR 35 were Reps. Phillip Cortez (D-San Antonio), Nicole Collier (D-Fort Worth), Bobby Guerra (D-McAllen), Abel Herrero (D-Robstown), Tracy O. King (D-Uvalde), and Richard Peña Raymond (D-Laredo).
Rep. Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler) suggested the maneuver by Democrats foreshadows a broader political strategy.
“54 Democrats in the Texas House just voted ‘Present’ on a constitutional amendment requiring a person to be a U.S. citizen to vote in Texas elections,” Schaefer tweeted. “The measure failed because 100 votes out of 150 were needed. An open border is the long-term strategy.”
Elected officials in places such as New York City and elsewhere have passed city ordinances allowing residents who are not citizens to vote in local elections. The analysis for SJR 35 indicated that without a constitutional amendment, the Legislature could conceivably legalize voting by noncitizens.