All at once, the entire Texas Statehouse Democratic Caucus is the focal point for protecting election rights in the nation. I must say, the spirit and spine they show remind all of us what we need to do in upping our game in the fight to save our democracy.
In the midst of an onslaught of legislative moves by Republicans from coast-to-coast to restrict voting following the 2020 historic voter turnout and the unprecedented use of vote-by-mail, it goes without saying it is essential strong-willed Democrats and independents wage a battle to stop the undermining of the right to cast a ballot.
Some of my Republican readers would argue that the bills under consideration, or the ones already passed, only strengthens ballot integrity and free and fair elections. The rest of us would contend that no matter what coat of paint is applied to the bills they are still voter repression efforts.
One part of the Texas proposal under consideration, that is not in any way defendable, is the removal of drive-through voting. As an example, Harris County first tested drive-thru voting in a summer 2020 primary runoff election with little controversy, but its use of 10 drive-thru polling places for the November general election created Republican outrage. Voters remained in their cars and showed a photo ID and verified their registration before casting ballots on portable voting machines. There was nothing different about the voting other than they might have been listening to the radio as they made their balloting choices.
As a person on the national news last night quipped, ‘We allow drive-through pick up for alcohol sales, but not for voting!”
Another regressive move by Republicans would prohibit local election officials from sending unsolicited applications to request a mail-in ballot. Harris County’s attempt to proactively send applications to all 2.4 million registered voters last year was blocked by the Texas Supreme Court. Under the bill mailing unrequested applications to voters in the future would also be blocked. After all, why encourage voters to exercise their rights!
As of June 21, 17 states enacted 28 new laws that restrict access to the vote. With some state legislatures still in session, more laws will certainly follow. But if the Democrats in the Texas Legislature have anything to say about it their state will not be adding constrictive laws to the statutes.
I honestly can say the willpower and steadfastness of the Texas Democrats are inspiring. For the second time this year, they have staged a walkout in an effort to block Republicans from passing new voting restrictions. You might recall they walked out of the Capitol building in May.
Now they have left the state!
That bold move reminded me of the days in February 2011 when religious leaders in Illinois and Wisconsin offered their congregations and homes as a sanctuary for Wisconsin Democratic senators who walked out of the legislature to block a vote on then-Governor Scott Walker’s proposal to roll back collective bargaining rights for public employees.
The goal of the Texas Democrats is, of course, to deny the legislative special session the quorum of members it needs to pass massive changes based on lies about the 2020 presidential election. Texas Republicans are pandering to the base that supports Donald Trump, but in so doing are eroding at the foundations of the republic.
Those Democrats who have left the state will continue to work. At least 50 of the 67 Democratic lawmakers flew to Washington, where they will meet with other legislators to push for federal voting protections. It is my hope that the gutsy move they are making will, in contrast, showcase the lack of resolve and backbone among several Democratic senators who have not been agile enough in protecting our democratic (small d) values.
Republicans can’t win elections unless they cheat by suppressing votes. (Or rig district boundaries with gerrymandering.) Democrats in Texas are calling the GOP out with a national headline-making move.
We need to now press our calls and emails to members of Congress to be as mindful of the right to ballot access as the Texas Democrats are doing.
And so it goes.