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Politics How Texas GOP's restrictive bills could keep their own voters from reaching the polls

07:40  21 november  2021
07:40  21 november  2021 Source:   nbcnews.com

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The GOP -proposed voting bills include a ban on drive-thru voting and additional requirements to existing voter ID law. They would prohibit local officials from sending out mail-in ballot applications and require the Texas secretary of state to check voting lists monthly for noncitizens. Eve poll . In addition, the GOP ' s efforts come as more Latinos have become eligible to vote and after an acceleration of Latino voter registration and turnout in the past two election cycles. “If you look at the last couple presidential elections and you are a Republican, you can say in 2016 80 percent of

Among the 100 or so people taking part on Day 1 of a Texas voting rights march styled after the Selma-to-Montgomery civil rights marches in Alabama was an 80-year-old Tejano music superstar better known by his stage name, Little Joe.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd © Provided by NBC News

Little Joe, whose full name is José María de León Hernández, has pushed for equality for much of his more than six decades in entertainment. He has joined protests for farmworkers and was active in civil rights protests of the Chicano Movement.

On Wednesday, he angrily denounced the GOP’s attempt to impose a new set of rules for Texans who want to vote.

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Voters remained in their cars and showed a photo ID and verified their registration before casting ballots on portable voting machines. At the Toyota Center — home of the Houston Rockets — drive-thru voting was located in a garage. As expected, the House and Senate both retreated from a controversial proposal to restrict the start time for Sunday early voting hours, which was derided as an attack on “souls to the polls ” efforts focused on Black churchgoers. Instead, both chambers are applying their new window of voting to weekend hours and adding an extra hour of required voting

A restrictive voting bill in Texas failed to pass Sunday night after Democrats walked out of the House chamber before a midnight deadline. The Texas Senate, voting along party lines, approved a sweeping Republican elections bill shortly after 6 a.m. Sunday after a lively overnight debate led mostly by Democrats that had begun 7½ hours earlier. Democrats criticized the bill ' s restrictions , particularly a ban on 24-hour voting and drive-thru voting that was popular with nonwhite voters last year in Harris County, for disproportionately affecting people of color.

“You know Texas is about the most racist state in America, and it’s just getting worse,” Hernández, a multiple Grammy Award winner, said after he finished the first leg of the four-day march in Georgetown, Texas. “Racist Republicans just don’t want to let go of the master mentality of the slavery thing."

More heartbreaking was not seeing more outrage from Latinos over the latest attempt to more strictly regulate voting, he said.

“We suffer the illusion of inclusion. We think we’re part of something that we’re being denied,” Hernández said. 

The clash over the Texas GOP’s latest proposed voting changes extended from Austin to Washington after Democrats, in the minority in the state Legislature, walked out of the latest legislative session to block passage of the GOP's voting changes.

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But while segregation-era voting laws made it impossible for non-White voters to cast a ballot by adding hurdles like poll taxes and literacy tests, the laws passed this year mostly make voting less convenient. Expansive Bills Outnumbered Proposed Restrictions . Scot Schraufnagel, a professor at Northern Illinois University who studies voting , said the restrictions will primarily affect voters with less education and those who move frequently, but there’ s no reason to think they will give either party an advantage.

Under countywide voting schemes, voters are no longer assigned to a polling place in their local precinct and can instead cast their ballot at any polling location in the county. Voting rights advocates and both Republican and Democratic leaders have largely been in favor of vote centers because they can make it more convenient to vote – by allowing people to vote near work, for instance McLennan county GOP chair Jon Ker called concerns about closures impacting turnout “hogwash,” saying that turnout was actually higher in his county after the number of voting locations dropped from 59 to 33.

They've been arguing their case from the nation's capital under threat of arrest when they return to Texas.

Some reject accusations of racism in the proposed laws, but the latest attempt by Texas' GOP to reconfigure how, when and where Texans can vote is being pursued just as Latinos are about to outnumber whites in the state.

When the Voting Rights Act was reauthorized in 1975, Latinos were about 22 percent of the population and cast about 15 percent of Texas’ votes, said Cal Jillson, a Southern Methodist University political science professor and author of “Texas Politics: Governing the Lone Star State.”

Now, about 40 percent of Texas’ population is Latino, almost equal to whites, who are about 41 percent. Latinos are believed to cast 20 percent to 25 percent of all votes now.

The GOP-proposed voting bills include a ban on drive-thru voting and additional requirements to existing voter ID law. They would prohibit local officials from sending out mail-in ballot applications and require the Texas secretary of state to check voting lists monthly for noncitizens.

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Democrats in the Texas House of Representatives took the drastic action to again deny the GOP the quorum they need to pass the bills aimed at restricting mail-in ballots and some early voting procedures. “Today, Texas House Democrats stand united in our decision to break quorum and refuse to let the Republican-led legislature force through dangerous legislation that would trample on Texans ’ freedom to vote ,” Democratic leaders said in a joint statement.

Georgia House Republicans have introduced their own sweeping bill that would drastically reduce the state' s early voting period, add a voter ID requirement for mail-in ballots, reduce the amount of time voters have to request ballots and that election officials have to mail them out, and limit the use of ballot drop boxes, as well as barring counties from adding extra. The history of voting rights in the GOP goes back to mostly land owning white men. Today, many GOP boomers believe in (live out) a patriarchal system that reinforces many elements of that history.

“The reality is this is bad policy, and given the size of the Latino electorate and the number of Latinos that need to register and the ability to navigate the election process itself, the biggest impact is going to be on Latinos,” said Clarissa Martínez-de-Castro, a vice president at the Latino advocacy group UnidosUS, citing numbers from the America’s Election Eve poll.  

In addition, the GOP's efforts come as more Latinos have become eligible to vote and after an acceleration of Latino voter registration and turnout in the past two election cycles.

“If you look at the last couple presidential elections and you are a Republican, you can say in 2016 80 percent of Latinos voted for Democrats and in 2020 it was 69 percent, so I should try to compete for this voter support,” Martínez-de-Castro said.

"It is laughable that candidates in parties feel frustrated when they have to compete for voters. That is exactly what they need to be doing, but you see all these different shenanigans, whether it's tinkering with our election system or gerrymandering," she said.

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Texas has a long history of voting rights discrimination, including when Democrats were in control. It has been so wanton — white primaries, poll taxes, English literacy tests, annual voter registration, purges of voter lists — that the state had to get federal approval for electoral changes right up until the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013.

The state has been found to violate the Voting Rights Act "every decade since the act’s passage,” state Rep. Nicole Collier, a Democrat who represents Fort Worth, testified Thursday before the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform.


Video: Texas Democrats leave state to block GOP voting restrictions bill (MSNBC)

There is vociferous pushback from Republicans against allegations that their voting proposals are racist.

The party has said the purpose is to restore integrity to the state election system. Republicans have won every statewide elected office since 1994, and they have controlled the Legislature since 2003.

“The proposed changes in Texas safeguard the voting rights of all voters, including Latinos, by ensuring every vote is legally cast and counted,” Matt Rinaldi, the state Republican Party chairman, said in an emailed statement.

Rinaldi said people want to know their votes are secure and counted, regardless of race or ethnicity. "We are confident that Republicans’ share of Latino votes will continue to increase over time," he said.

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In response to a recent Supreme Court ruling upholding voter restrictions in Arizona, Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said portraying new voting restriction proposals or laws as preventing fraud amplifies Donald Trump's lie that the presidential election was stolen and “questions the legitimacy of a dramatically growing Latino vote in the United States.”

Whites still cast about 60 percent of the vote in Texas, Jillson said. That's down from about 80-plus percent in the 1970s and the 1980s, he said.

“The Texas electoral system has always been a system that is open to whites, particularly economically comfortable whites, and closed to everyone else,” he said.

While elections were tightly closed to Blacks in the Jim Crow era, they were less so against Hispanics, who were considered an electorate managed by Latino community leaders in conjunction with white conservatives, he said.

The growth of the Latino electorate in Texas is one of the reasons the GOP is pushing the latest changes — “a big one,” Jillson said.

Also in play have been federal court decisions removing limits on changes in voting and election systems, including the oversight Texas had been subject to since 1975, he said.

The Supreme Court’s 2013 gutting of the Voting Rights Act "freed Texas and other red state legislators and governors to say we can craft voting regulations and electoral laws that we want, even if they have a disparate impact, a greater impact, on people of color than Anglos," he said.

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Voter restrictions can affect both parties

In the years Republicans have controlled the state government in Texas, the number of Latinos who voted in presidential and midterm elections has grown from 740,000 in November 1994 to 2.97 million last November, according to census estimates in the Community Population Survey.

About 5.6 million Latinos are eligible to vote in Texas, the Pew Research Center reports.

The Republican share of Latino votes has grown, too. For a 2013 PolitiFact article, Mike Baselice, a Texas Republican pollster, said that in 1982, Republicans running for statewide office drew 12.5 percent of the Hispanic vote.

Now, Republican state candidates have often been able to draw more than 30 percent and, at times, more than 40 percent of the Latino vote. Last year's exit polls reported that Trump won 41 percent of Latino votes.

In the last two election cycles, there has been accelerated growth in Latino voter registration and turnout, Martínez-de-Castro said.

Jason Villalba, CEO and board chairman of the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation, said the Texas GOP’s push for new voting regulations is not about race but about appealing to Republican primary voters and about showing fealty to Trump, whom he called the “titular head of the party.” 

“They want to see their governor, lieutenant governor stand in solidarity with him, to stifle the ‘big lie’ or the ‘steal the election,’ to make sure that never happens in Texas,” said Villalba, a former Republican who became an independent during Trump’s political rise.

Villalba said the GOP’s motivation for changing voting laws would unquestionably affect Latino voters and other groups, including Republicans. 

“Republican primary voters will crawl over broken glass to vote, and their vote will certainly be registered. But in a general election, it’s going to hurt the [Republican] vote and [the vote of] people that might be leaning Republican,” he said. 

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The legislation would curtail some election practices that have been used recently by Republicans, he said.

GOP candidates “relied greatly on the mail-in ballots, because we knew Republicans were going to be largely older and voted through the mail ballot,” he said; Republican candidates would send cards that provided mail-in requests for mail-in ballots.

“We knew that was a tremendous source of votes for Republicans,” he said.

'Come out and participate'

Protesters plan to wrap up their marches Saturday with a rally at the Texas Capitol. The events were organized by the Poor People's Campaign, led by the Rev. William J. Barber II and former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, who has also been marching.

O’Rourke and another former Democratic presidential candidate, Julián Castro, planned to attend the rally along with thousands of other people. Another Texas entertainer, Willie Nelson, said Thursday that he would stage a concert at the rally.

Hernández couldn't march for more than a day because of previously scheduled gigs. He said he hoped others, especially Latinos, would take his place. 

“I urge la raza to come out and participate. It’s for our good, our children’s good, the state, the country,” he said. “If we lose more voting rights, everything else is secondary.”

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Hispanic support for Republicans' hardline immigration policies may keep Texas red .
We can expect Texas Republicans to maintain the backing of roughly two-fifths of Texas Hispanic voters in the 2022 midterms. This would mean the continuation of the Republican statewide winning streak that dates back to 1996 and a GOP net gain of between one and three U.S. House seats. This advantage could prove pivotal to the Republican effort to retake control of the U.S. House.Mark P. Jones is the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy's fellow in political science and the Joseph D. Jamail chair in Latin American Studies at Rice University as well as a co-author of "Texas Politics Today.

usr: 4
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