In September 2021, Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday signed into law a draconian voter suppression law that, bans 24-hour and drive-thru voting, imposes new hurdles on mail-in ballots and empowers partisan poll watchers. Yesterday’s primary marked the first test of these new restrictions.
Predictably, voting rights were successfully suppressed. Start with mail in ballots, which are only available to a subset of Texans. The law, SB1, imposed additional pointless hurdles that must be jumped.
Texans who qualify to vote by mail felt the first consequences of the new law. It required them to include identification numbers both when applying for a mail-in ballot and again on the inside flap of the envelope they use to return the ballot – a process that tripped up many in recent weeks.
Those problems surfaced again at polling places on Tuesday. So if this is a dry run for November, the Republicans have been very successful in suppressing the vote.
This election represented the first time Delores Jones, 65, was eligible to vote by mail. It didn’t work out so well.
Jones said she applied for a mail-in ballot but never received one. Her neighbor, Ella Clark, 78, said she voted by mail but couldn’t tell whether her ballot had been received.
So, they both turned up to vote in person Tuesday.
“Not taking a chance,” Jones said, describing her decision. Mail-in voting in Texas this year, she added, seems “unreliable.”
Another Houston resident – Jimmie Williams, 87 – has voted by mail for a decade and was waiting this year for Harris County election officials to send him a mail-in ballot application so he could do so again.
But the new law bans election officials from sending out unsolicited mail-in ballot applications. And by the time Williams realized that, it was too late, he said.
During last year’s legislative sessions, Texas lawmakers created new criminal penalties for election workers accused of interfering with poll watchers’ activities. The new rules were enacted after many Republican officials echoed former President Donald Trump’s false claims of widespread voter fraud during the 2020 presidential election, despite there being no evidence. Election officials and voting rights groups warned legislators that the new restrictions could have a potential chilling effect on election workers.
Several voting locations throughout the state were unable to open Tuesday during the primary election because of election staff shortages, causing some to open later in the day and others to shut down completely.
Locations in Dallas, Tarrant and Hidalgo counties reported missing either a Republican or Democratic Party election judge. These staff members are appointed by their respective parties to oversee polling sites.
If one of the parties’ judges is absent, the polling site cannot operate. That’s because by state law, no polling site can serve only one party, Tarrant County elections administrator Heider Garcia told The Texas Tribune.
Which brings us back to Balloon Juice efforts to combat voter suppression.
We introduced the Joint the Fight initiative with this post a few days ago and followed up with a post about the outreach we will be doing with activist organizations, state parties, and elected officials and their staff.
We intended to roll out the rest of the elements of Join the Fight in a series of posts over the course of this week But the gravity of the situation in Ukraine, the degree of interest and emotional engagement in what is happening – and what will be happening in the coming days – has understandably overshadowed engagement on other things.
So… change in plans for now. We think maybe it’s easier to focus on something not-Ukraine with an interactive conversation about the project, for maybe an hour or so. So we’re going to outline the basic elements of the rest of the project in this post, and invite you to join one of three project zooms next week. We’ll explain the project, and address your questions and suggestions.
For the folks who don’t want to zoom, all 3 sessions will be recorded so you can listen to them later if you like. AND we will follow up with regular BJ posts about the project once the situation in Ukraine is at least slightly less up in the air than it is now. Surely someone will find a “solution” to the Putin problem.
So.. back to Join the Fight. Join the Fight has created a database identifying the threats by state, focusing in particular on key swing states where voting rights are most embattled. It’s a different kind of fight and a different battles than in Ukraine, but they share one thing; it’s about holding the line on democracy.
We need your help.
We need those of you with research or organizational skills to help us track and continue to update key legislation and litigation threatening voting rights.
We need those of you who like to interact with other humans to help build relationship with other activist organizations.
Remember, we’re not just collecting information for information’s sake; we’re creating an interactive database, which when fully implemented will function as both a source of information and as a resource that identified opportunities for action.
Join the Fight will also have a social media component, offering opportunities to fight election misinformation in a coordinated fashion, primarily on Twitter and Instagram to begin with, but also perhaps on TikTok and Facebook down the line. You don’t have to be already social media savvy in order to join us – Momsense will be holding training sessions for the social media folks.
Interested in finding out more? We have four zooms scheduled, and if none of these times work for you, we can schedule another one to try to catch everyone.
– 8 pm blog (thinking of east coast peeps) MONDAY
– 10 pm blog time (thinking of west coast peeps) TUESDAY
– 1 pm blog time (weekday) WEDNESDAY
– 11 am blog time (weekend) SATURDAY
Click here to sign up to participate in the Join the Fight initiative. Election day is just 8 months away, and in some states, voting starts in just 7 months.
The right wing didn’t pause the battle to suppress voting rights because of the war in Ukraine; we can’t afford to wait either, even though it’s hard to y=focus on anything else.