Black Voters Resist When Texas Goes Full Jim Crow On Super Tuesday
The Republican effort to keep non-Republicans from voting in Texas was on shameful display on Super Tuesday, which for many black and brown voters stretched into Not-So-Super Wednesday. The lines spilled outside elementary schools and public libraries, wrapping around sidewalks. You'd think they were standing in line for stale bread during the last days of the Soviet Union. Carla Reed and Hervis Rogers were the last two voters at Texas Southern University. There just plumb weren't enough voting machines available at a place intended for people to vote. They waited in line for seven hours, until well after 1 a.m., to receive their "I Voted" stickers. They are not white.
It should go without saying that wait times like these are repulsive and unacceptable. They're also all part of the plan. Texas closed down 750 polls since 2012, around the time Chief Justice John Roberts declared racism deader than disco (he was wrong on both counts). The closures specifically target voting blocs that turn out overwhelmingly for Democrats. Republicans don't care if minorities age to death while waiting to vote, but these same constitutional champions will "sneer most bitterly" if they think universal health care would mean they'd have to wait an extra 10 minutes to see a dentist.
Texas was one of six states in 2016 where the winning margin was between five and 10 percent. The others were Georgia, Virginia, Ohio, New Mexico, and Iowa. Texas, like love, is a battlefield that Democrats could seize, blocking Republicans from the White House for the foreseeable future. Republicans know enough to be afraid. It's why they won't stop their dirty tricks.
The 50 [Texas] counties that saw the highest growth in black and Latino population had 542 polling sites close between 2012 and 2018, while the 50 counties with the lowest black and Latino population growth saw just 34 closures.
Everyone reading this probably agrees that voter suppression is morally wrong, so I'd like to talk a little more about Hervis Rogers and Carla Reed. Let's put a human face on the constitutional atrocities Republicans are gleefully committing. Rogers works the night shift, so he sacrificed a day's rest waiting to make his voice heard. He didn't even return home after voting. He was already late for his job. He could've given up. He was checking election results on his phone and might've felt discouraged if his candidate was either failing or even succeeding elsewhere. How much could his single vote matter? But Rogers recognized the game being played and he wasn't going to let people who are so afraid of true democracy win.
ROGERS: I was debating on [just walking away]. But I said to myself, "No!" Don't do that. It was like ... the way it was going, it was set up for me to walk away. Walk away, don't worry about it. But I said, "No, I'm not gonna do that." If it were to happen again, I'd do the same thing all over again. Every vote counts.
REED: Voting is an important part of everyday living in America ... You can be disappointed. You can be frustrated. You can go through all the changes you have to go through. But the number one thing is to get the job done and voice your opinion and voice how you feel about how things are going.
Black people in America have shed blood for their right to vote. They've died so that America would finally honor what Martin Luther King called the "promissory note to which every American was to fall heir." Republicans might restrain themselves from siccing dogs on us or scaring us from polling places like the "heroic leads" in Birth of a Nation, but their more "sophisticated" and "subtle" attempts at suppressing our vote are no less abhorrent.
Literal poll taxes are illegal, but Republicans have discovered a means of still implementing their intent. They deliberately and selectively make the process as painful as possible, so the people they'd prefer never vote at all just stop trying. They have never fully understood or appreciated black people's resolve. We're not going to let Republicans beat us, but we're also not going to let people like Rogers and Reed, who represent the best of America, continue paying a poll tax in all but name.
Now, we all should feel angry and motivated enough to join Stacey Abrams and her fight for actual fair elections.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).