Texas Just Shutting Down All Polling Places That Aren't At Ted Cruz's House
The saying goes that Texas isn't truly a "red" state; it's a non-voting state. Texas ranked 41st in the nation for voter turnout in 2018 — the year of the Blue Wave, when nationwide turnout was through the roof. Texas is the second-largest US state, so that's especially alarming.
Why don't Texans vote? It's not that they just don't give a damn: Texas officials go out of their way to keep Texans from voting. Last year, Texas closed down more polling places than any other state. According to a report from the Leadership Conference Education Fund, Texas closed down 750 polls since 2012. The closures are obviously and grossly targeted to disenfranchise minorities.
From The Guardian:
McLennan county, home to Waco, Texas, closed 44% of its polling places from 2012 to 2018, despite the fact that its population grew by more than 15,000 people during the same time period, with more than two-thirds of that growth coming from Black and Latinx residents.
It's shameful, and more evidence that Chief Justice John Roberts helped make Jim Crow great again when he gutted the Voting Rights Act. It doesn't even matter whether deliberate malice or incredible naïveté motivated Roberts, the ramifications have been grotesque.
Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in Texas by nine points. That seems decisive, but it's no Indiana. Texas was actually 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. Most are considered "battleground" states.
Texas, like Georgia and Virginia, has become more competitive as the population grows more diverse. That's bad news for Republicans, who don't bother modifying their positions to appeal to the changing demographic. No, they just violate the fuck out of Texas state law. For instance, Brazoria County, just south of Houston, has a combined minority population of more than 20 percent. By an extreme coincidence, the county closed almost 60 percent of its polling places between 2012 and 2018. This fell below the statutory minimum. The county clerk, Joyce Hudman, who still has a job, said the closings were "inadvertent" — as if we're talking about plants someone forgot to water so they died rather than actual buildings someone actively shuttered. She pinky swears that this won't happen again.
What should worry Republicans is that despite all their underhanded shadiness, Democrats have made steady progress in the state. Clinton lost Texas by the lowest margin for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1996. Beto O'Rourke came within two painful points of sending Ted Cruz back to the fifth dimension. It was Texas's closest US Senate race since 1978. This was powered by O'Rourke's strength among minority voters.
Only California has a smaller share of non-Hispanic white residents than Texas. During the 2018 US Senate race, Cruz warned about Texas becoming like California — with all the tofu and sprouts from that Steve Martin movie. This was not just fear mongering. Republicans are terrified of losing Texas. They have no path to 270 electoral votes without Texas in the Republican column. Spending lots of money defending Texas also isn't a pleasing prospect for Republicans. But Democrats Lizzie Fletcher and Colin Allred have already flipped districts in the state. Republicans can pull all the dirty tricks in their dirty trick book, but the purple rain is gonna fall.
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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).