With more and more stories coming out about just how much of a battleground Texas might be in 2020, I got curious about how voting rights are faring in the Lone Star State.
✦ The Texas Civil Rights Project filed a lawsuit recently on behalf of voters whose mail-in ballots were rejected due to a signature mismatch. The option to mail in a ballot is crucial for many underrepresented voters, and to have signatures rejected by untrained poll workers, much less with no notification to the voter, violates the Constitution, according to the organization. Over 1,800 ballots were rejected during the 2018 midterms.
✦ In much better news, Harris County (which encompasses Houston) has received permission from the state to use voting centers, which allows voters to cast their ballot at any poll location. This makes it much easier for voters to cast their ballot near their work or school. There are 2.3 million voter in Harris County, and this change is expected to make voting far easier. It is worth noting that County Clerk Diane Trautman, who pushed for this reform, was just elected this past November.
✦ The Civil Rights Clinic at Georgetown Law studied the Texas’ process of forcing formerly incarcerated people to pay fines and fees before being allowed to vote, and their recent report determined that it prevented over 327,000 people from voting in 2016. Voting rights advocates argue that this process is just the same as a poll tax, which is illegal.
✦ Despite finding that the GOP state legislature used racially discriminating redistricting in 2011, a panel of judges in federal court determined that Texas would not have to go back to being subject to federal pre-clearance for any changes to its election maps or voting rules. The Texas Democratic party pointed to the court loss as yet one more reason why it was crucial that Democrats flip the state House in 2020 — to make sure the GOP wasn’t completely in control of the maps.
Texas is a battleground for sure — the Republicans have been doing everything they can to remain in power and the Democrats see an opportunity to put a serious crack in that monopoly. Voting rights are always under attack, pretty much in every state, but in Texas those attacks have an outsized influence because they affect so many voters. My advice? Keep your eyes peeled for these tactics, support voting rights organizations in the state, and keep registering voters!