As Tarrant County trends Blue, the GOP is getting jittery and trotting out their well-documented efforts to suppress minority turnout in the local elections. Many seniors living in Tarrant County who are eligible to vote by mail have received mailers that create the impression that mail-in ballots are susceptible to fraud and felony convictions.
Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy, and the fundamental right upon which all our civil liberties rest. In 2018 the ACLU released a report titled “The Sorry State of Voting Rights in Texas.” It identifies several issues regarding voter suppression techniques applied by supporters of the GOP, including:The gerrymandering of districts aimed at restricting the representation of minority voters. One clear example was in Arlington, a city that has been increasingly trending blue. The GOP was so stunned to lose two state house seats in 2008 that it gerrymandered, or combined, those two seats into a single congressional district representing the entire city. Thus, it created a singular block with a heavy minority population. The result? Minority voters lost one house seat and, more importantly, one representative in Austin. This same technique has been employed all over the state and created an unfair number of GOP safe districts.
Texas’s voter ID laws have been found, by three federal courts, to have disproportionately burdened voters of color, in violation of the Voting Rights Act. The ACLU points out the cases of Veasey v. Abbott and Organizing for Chinese Americans Greater Houston v. Texas. These laws remain in place and are pending even more litigation.
On the local level, municipalities have been creating hurdles against minority voter participation by creating an atmosphere of fear and confusion. A recent example has happened in Arlington, where a mayoral candidate, who is being supported by GOP leaning groups, sent out a mailer to seniors warning them of convictions of voter fraud connected to mail-in ballots. According to the Texas Secretary of State, the State had more than 15 million registered voters in 2018, and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported ONLY 4 voter fraud incidents as seen in the mailer from the Mayoral candidate. Historically, there is no record of any significant fraud over the years. Sending out such a mailer creates an environment of fear and intimidation for senior voters. Consider this: over the last two decades, hundreds of millions of votes have been cast in Texas, and only a few cases of voter fraud have been found and prosecuted. These tactics are targeted towards communities of color and vulnerable seniors by the GOP establishment specifically intended to suppress their votes.
According to the ACLU report on voter suppression, “One of the main threats to the voting rights of vulnerable communities in Texas is voter intimidation in all its forms. This may include aggressively questioning voters about their citizenship, criminal record, or other qualifications to vote, in a manner intended to interfere with the voters’ rights; falsely presenting oneself as an elections official; spreading false information about voter requirements such as an ability to speak English, or the need to present certain types of photo identification; displaying false or misleading signs about voter fraud and the related criminal penalties; harassment toward non-English speakers, voters with disabilities, and voters of color; and changes of polling locations to inconvenient or threatening areas.”
he Texas Legislature continues talking about voter fraud issues in the mail-in ballot system and passing laws to make it more difficult for seniors and disabled to exercise their right to vote. Texas law allows seniors, disabled voters, and those who are out of their districts during the voting period due to family or personal reasons to submit their ballots by mail. The GOP has been very effective with voters who lean Republican in assisting them with the mail-in ballot matter. In the recent election cycles, Democrats have made advances assisting seniors in mail-in ballot issues. The GOP realizes that it is losing its long-held edge over Democrats in mail-in ballots. It has resorted to scare tactics that intimidate senior voters and voters of color. These efforts are aimed at convincing voters to abandon their voting altogether.
The changing demographics and political mobilization of minorities in Texas has sent shivers through Republican circles. They are desperate to keep their majority by hook or by crook. Journalists, activists, and Democrats must keep their eyes open and be ready to respond to the undemocratic and immoral tactics of the GOP. It looks like the Republican Party ha