Texas Republicans Targeting Voting Access Find Their Bullseye: Cities

Voters will cast a ballot by mail at the drive-through polling place in Houston on October 23, 2020.  (Go Nakamura / The New York Times)

Voters will cast a ballot by mail at the Drive-Through Polling Place in Houston on October 23, 2020. (Go Nakamura / The New York Times)

HOUSTON — Voting in the 2020 elections forced Zoe Douglas to make a difficult choice. As a therapist meeting with patients over Zoom, she was unable to conclude during the early vote before the vote was over.

Harris County then introduced 24-hour voting a day. At 11:00 pm on Thursday before the election, Douglas is a fast-food worker, nurse, construction worker, late-night worker, and other late-workers at the NRG Arena, one of the county’s eight 24-hour voting sites. Joined in. Throw ballots overnight.

“I clearly remember people still in uniform,” said Douglas, 27, from Houston.

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24-hour voting was one of many options Harris County introduced to help residents cast ballots, including drive-through voting and aggressive ballot mailing. New alternatives tailored to the diverse workforce struggling during the pandemic in Texas’ largest county helped increase turnout by nearly 10% compared to 2016. Approximately 70% of registered voters cast ballots, and the Task Force found no evidence of fraud.

Still, Republicans are pushing through the Legislature to target the very process that generated such high turnout. Two comprehensive bills, including one that the House of Representatives may address next week, seek to roll back almost all expansions that the county will implement in 2020.

The bill makes Texas one of the most difficult states to cast ballots in the country. It is also a prime example of a Republican-led effort to roll back voting access in Democratic cities and populated areas such as Atlanta and Maricopa County, Arizona. The impact on voting in rural areas, which tend to be Republican-minded, is much less.

Bills in some states have effectively created two approaches to urban and rural areas, questioning the treatment of cities and the large number of voters living in them, and either being based in those places or them. Have a labor force in the place of.

In Texas, Republicans make a rare effort to outline restrictions that apply only to counties with a population of over 1 million, and Houston, Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas are booming and diversifying. Targeting metropolitan areas.

Republicans focus on diverse urban areas, voting activists say. Reminiscent of the state’s history of racist voting laws, including poll taxes and the “white primary” law of the Jim Crow era, it essentially excluded black voters from the election process.

According to a survey of the Texas Citizenship Project, a non-profit organization, most of Harris County’s early voters were white. However, the group found that the majority of people who used drive-through or 24-hour voting, an early voting method prohibited by Republican bills, were voters.

“It’s clear that they’re trying to make it harder for people facing everyday situations, especially poverty and other situations, to vote,” said Democrat and former interim secretary of Harris County, November. Policy during the election. “In the 24-hour vote, there were no complaints or even legal objections during the election.”

Efforts to further limit voting in Texas are underway in the context of an increasingly tense confrontation between legislators and Texas-based businesses, with Republicans in the House of Representatives financially speaking to the businesses. I am proposing retaliation.

Both American Airlines and Dell Technologies have expressed strong opposition to the bill, and AT & T has issued a statement in favor of “a voting method that makes it easier for more Americans to vote,” but does not specifically mention Texas. It was.

American Airlines has also sent Jack McCain, the son of former Senator John McCain, to work with Republicans in Austin to lift some of the more stringent restrictions.

Republicans in the state legislature don’t seem to give in. In an amendment submitted to the state budget last week, Republicans in the House of Representatives said that “groups that threatened some publicly unfavorable reaction” related to “election integrity” would not be covered by some state funding. Proposed.

These amendments were not reflected in the final budget, but a broader proposal that threatened companies speaking about “legislative or administrative measures” was on the state’s “wish list” that put together long-term proposals. Added. Although unlikely to pass, Austin lobbyists and operatives wear a thin veil that warns companies to keep the voting bill silent, just to record the proposal.

In a recent study, Waco-based economic research and analysis firm Perryman Group could draw controversial voting measures from the state to draw meetings and events and encourage businesses and workers to avoid them. Said there is. The group estimated that the new restrictive law would significantly reduce the state’s business activities and sacrifice tens of thousands of jobs by 2025.

Among the restrictions of the two comprehensive bills in the Texas state legislature are a ban on 24-hour voting, a ban on drive-through voting, and severe criminal penalties for local election authorities supporting voters. There are also new restrictions on the distribution of voting machines, which may reduce the number of constituencies and ban the encouragement of absentee ballots.

The bill also includes measures that make it much more difficult to dismiss pollsters due to improper conduct. Participatory pollsters trained and empowered to monitor elections on behalf of candidates or political parties occasionally crossed the line with voter threats or other types of fraud. Harris County election officials said last year they received several complaints about Republican pollsters.

Former Harris County Secretary Hollins said the Republicans are aware that “blacks and browns, poor youth” use more flexible voting options than others.

“They are afraid of it,” he said.

Republican-controlled legislatures in Georgia and Arizona have passed a new voting law after the Democratic victory in November, despite Texas supporting former President Donald Trump with more than 600,000 votes. Instead, they are pushing for new restrictions. This effort reflects the dual reality facing Republicans in the state legislature. Bases aspiring to change to voting after Trump’s defeat in 2020, and a rapidly diversifying population.

Senator Bryan Hughes, a Republican in northeast Texas who sponsored the State Senate bill, defended it as part of a long-standing effort to strengthen Texas’s “election security.”

“There’s a lot of debate nationwide right now, and you may be crazy about it, but this isn’t new to Texas,” Hughes said in an interview.

He said lawmakers are trying to roll back email voting access because the process is fraudulent. He did not provide evidence, and many studies have shown that US fraudulent voting is extremely rare.

Hughes said the drive-through voting ban was problematic because it was difficult for party pollsters to access at the location, and 24-hour voting was difficult to find night shift pollsters. Stated.

However, with a population of 4.7 million, it ranks third in the country, and many voters in Harris County, which has more than 25 states, have different motives.

Houston costume designer Christie Osi Shackelford, who had a temporary job to help her family during a pandemic, gives her the flexibility she needs to get the job done and raise three children. We used 24-hour voting because we provided it. She said it took her less than 10 minutes.

“I think some people couldn’t vote in the last few elections, but they had a night out. It’s sad to have to take that power in turn. Without a quote. Quoting and protecting the integrity of the election, “said Oshi Shackelford. “And I had a hard time finding the words because they were so stimulating and tired. I heard the same things and saw the same things blatantly over and over again over the years. I’m tired of doing it. “

Brittany Heymann, 35, was eight months pregnant as the election day was approaching and he was also raising a four-year-old child. Heyman voted for one of the drive-through locations, fearing not only COVID-19, but also the pure logistics of navigating the line by voting.

“Being able to vote through a drive-through was a savior for me,” Heyman said.

She added that she was pregnant and would not have been in danger of waiting in a long line to vote.

Harris County’s drive-through vote, used by more than 127,000 voters in the general election, banned the practice and immediately received immediate attention from state Republicans who sued Hollins and the county in an attempt to abandon the drive-through vote. I collected it. To process. The Texas Supreme Court ruled against the Republican Party in late October.

Other provisions of the Republican bill do not directly address Harris County, but they can have the greatest impact on the state’s largest county. One proposal requiring a uniform number of voting machines in each district could impede the ability to deploy additional machines in densely populated areas.

With increasing public pressure on the legislature this month, Democratic Mayor Sylvester Turner said more than 12 people, including executives, citizenship activists and former athletes, for a 90-minute press conference condemning the bill. We gathered speakers. ..

“What’s happening here in Texas is a warning shot to the rest of the country,” said Lina, a Harris County judge and Democrat Lina, who is driving continued expansion of voting access within the county.・ Hidalgo said. “First in Georgia, then in Texas, and then in more and more states, it will soon be the biggest step since Jim Crow, and it’s all our responsibility to stop it. “

This article was originally New York Times..

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