Houston’s extended vote subject to Republican restrictions

Austin, Texas (AP) — The next major voting battle is underway in Texas. In Texas, Republicans are outlawing 24-hour polling stations and drive-through voting as an option, and election officials are trying to criminalize the mailing of unsolicited absentees. Voting application.

All were efforts last year by Harris County, the state’s largest democratic hub, including Houston, and the threat of the coronavirus made direct voting more dangerous.

Republican lawmakers have made it very clear that they will focus on Harris County in and around Houston to strengthen the state’s voting law. Harris County, one of the country’s largest and most racially diverse counties, launched a new voting method in 2020 on a scale nowhere else in Texas, but by voting from cars and midnight. There is no evidence of fraud. , Republicans are determined to prevent it from happening again.

This effort is the clearest example of how Republicans’ national campaign to strengthen voting law can target Democrats, even though the measures claim to be non-partisan. It is one. Geography could be an effective substitute for partisanship as Americans become increasingly categorized into liberal urban and conservative rural areas. City-specific and population-friendly proposals should have a greater impact on Democratic voters.

This is likely to be the case in Georgia, where the new voting law stipulates the number of dropboxes for absentee ballots by county and uses a formula based on the number of registered voters or early voting sites. Will be done. Election officials in the Atlanta region say the change will reduce the number of dropboxes available to voters compared to the 2020 level.

Texas is the largest state the Republicans have vowed to make voting changes since Donald Trump’s false allegations that fraud has sacrificed him in the 2020 elections. A radical package known as Houseville 6 that tightens voting rules awaits a full vote, and Republican Governor Greg Abbott supports that effort.

The Capitol bill gives party pollsters a wider latitude and sends mail ballot applications to households that election managers didn’t request, as Harris County tried to do for a pandemic. Includes measures to make it a felony. .. It also contains elements similar to the State Senate bill, which passed its first major vote earlier this month.

A clear target in Harris County, where 44% of the approximately 5 million residents are Latin and 20% black, is opposed as evidence that Republicans are trying to curb minority turnout at democratic hubs. It is seen in. Republicans angryly rejected these accusations, saying the measure would only curb power that county leaders didn’t have in the first place.

There is no dispute over the growing interests in elections in Texas’ largest county. President Joe Biden has won over 13 percentage points. This is an overwhelming margin that helped keep him within 6 points of Trump across the state.

“It’s easy to calculate,” said former Harris County election clerk Chris Hollins about the Democratic Party’s performance in the Houston area in November. “Their view is,’Let’s make Harris County harder to vote,’ although thousands of Republicans will be deprived of their rights.”

The county exemplifies the Republican sliding grip in rapidly changing Texas. In 2004, former Texas-born President George W. Bush easily won Harris County, and the Republicans ran all major offices throughout the county. However, the Democratic Party has been defeated in recent years, and the victory now extends to local judicial races involving 17 black women. Elected person On the bench in 2018.

Texas Republicans face growing criticism, especially as prominent domestic employers such as American Airlines and Dell oppose the restrictions. Republican Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, The person who provided the $ 1 million reward Defending Trump’s unsupported election irregularity claims, he blew up the airline earlier this month, saying, “You’re essentially calling it a racist, and that wouldn’t hold. I said.

According to Patrick and other Republicans, the problem was that despite the pandemic, Harris County did not have the authority to expand voting options. “There’s news in Harris County. You’re not the capital of Texas,” Patrick said.

Last year, a record 1.7 million voters cast ballots in Harris County. According to Hollins, 10,000 to 15,000 votes were cast 24 hours a day during non-voting hours. According to Houston Democratic Senator Carol Alvarado, about 127,000 people from cars cast ballots at drive-through centers, more than half of whom were black, Latin, or Asian.

Former Harris County GOP Chair Jared Woodfill said last year he filed multiple proceedings against local election authorities over expanded options and is in talks with the Republicans behind two Texas voting bills.

Texas already has some of the country’s strictest voting restrictions, and Republicans say the rise in turnout is evidence of unrestrained voting. This is an allegation that it ignores the surge in the state’s population. According to Woodfill, the county has crossed the line. He also acknowledges the influence of the Houston region in elections.

“Texas and Harris County are really zero for Republicans,” he said.

James Price, 55, voted for Biden at a polling place outside Houston in November. He gave Biden an average score so far and said he was disappointed that nothing more had been done to convince people that the coronavirus vaccine was safe. Above all, Mr. Price, a black man, said he was seeing efforts to limit votes led by Republicans who believed the elections were stolen.

“I don’t know how it will affect which race, community, etc., and restrictions and rules won’t prevent voting. I’ll find a way,” Price said of the proposal.

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