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Everything’s bigger in Texas — even voter suppression

Everything’s bigger in Texas — even voter suppression

Austin – With images of an election landslide dancing in many Americans’ heads, Republican efforts to stifle the vote are picking up steam — especially in Texas. The state’s Republican governor Greg Abbott made the Trumpian play of attempting to limit each county to only one dropbox for mail-in ballots. Moreover, dueling court decisions, both pro and con, are volleying back and forth like a ball in a frantic tennis game. 

On Tuesday, a U.S. federal appeals court panel overturned Friday’s decision by U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman of Austin to keep the state from limiting mail-in drop boxes. The new decision clears the way for the state to keep only one drop box per county. 

The appeals panel decision was a devastating one, especially for the group that brought the lawsuit to court, the Texas League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). In a statement on their website, Domingo Garcia, LULAC National President said, “This is clearly a setback for Texas voters. The ruling should send a strong message that voter suppression is allowed even when it threatens all Texans and our nation’s democracy.” 

In the earlier ruling, Judge Pitman declared that with only one dropbox available to all the residents in a county, the action posed a disadvantage to large counties, like Harris, which includes Houston. In his 46-page decision, Pitman wrote that forcing senior citizens and people of color in disadvantaged communities to travel across an area spanning 2000 square miles is “prejudicial and dangerous.”

Gov. Abbott, who parrots Trump talking points on needing stricter controls on mail-in voting, is using these tactics to “secure the vote” against fraudulent activity. Dan Crenshaw, a junior member of the House of Representatives from Houston, is another Republican that has loudly argued against expanding vote by mail in Texas. At the Texas Tribune Festival in September, Crenshaw noted that he won his 2018 primary by only 155 votes. He said, “…we win elections by small percentages, it is so important that we’re able to trust the outcome of this election,” in justifying his objections to absentee ballots in The Texas Tribune.

This rationale is unsupported by data. In June the Washington Post reported that according to their data, voter fraud in U.S. elections was miniscule. In one case, this amounted to about 0.0025% of votes cast. Compounded by the deliberate snail’s pace of mail processed and delivered by the U.S. Postal Service, Gov. Abbott’s tactics to delay, discourage, and inhibit the vote could create a perfect storm of voter suppression not seen since the era of Jim Crow. 

Voter suppression has a long, disturbing  history in the United States. In the Jim Crow South, African-Americans were subjected to significant voter intimidation including threats and violent acts by white supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan. Blacks were forced to pay a “poll tax” in order to vote. 

Today, voter suppression comes in a variety of forms. These include redistricting to favor Republicans, halting the U.S. Census to undercount people of color, and triggering delays caused by “malfunctioning” voting machines, as in Georgia. Recently in California, the local Republican Party installed fake mail-in drop boxes in three counties, including Fresno. 

Last week the all-Republican Texas Supreme Court ruled that Houston voters may not receive “unsolicited mail-in ballot applications for November’s presidential election,” as reported in Reuters. All of this is of major concern to Democrats as early voting gets underway in Texas. 

Ultimately, it comes down to this — if MAGA support is so strong for the president in the Longhorn State, then why does Governor Abbot side with cheaters?

Image Credit: Elliott Stallion/Unsplash

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I love telling, reading, and writing stories. I freelance as a writer, editor, and all-around trouble-maker. I live in Atlanta with my dogs, Jaco, and Trane.

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