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The Fight Against Voter Suppression in Texas

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Like all kids growing up in Texas in the 1950s, I learned about my native state’s proud history in the seventh grade. The glorious story of The Alamo inspired us all. Texans stood their ground to the end at the Alamo, outnumbered on every side by Mexican troops under General Santa Anna, giving up their lives to protect freedom.

To this day, Texans stand up when liberty is on the line. On Monday July 12, 2021 - a day that will go down in history - more than 50 Texas Democratic legislators left the state to stop passage of restrictive voter access laws. They will stand their ground in Washington until the special session called by Texas’ governor to pass the laws, expires.

It was no easy choice. These Texans dropped everything, leaving homes, families, jobs, and businesses overnight to fend off the attack against democracy. On a bus leaving Washington DC’s airport that evening, Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer told Rachel Maddow on her nightly show that Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 3 would “ban voting in overnight hours, restrict voting by mail, and restrict absentee voting, things that would make it harder to vote” 1 for working people and the disabled. They would also ban drive-thru voting and include a monthly review of the state’s massive voter rolls to identify possible non-citizens, according to The Texas Tribune 2 .

On Tuesday July 13, 2021, Texas Republicans voted to have these Democrats arrested, brought back to the state, and “cabined” in Austin. Greg Abbott, Texas’ Republican governor, threatened to keep calling special sessions right up to the 2022 mid-term elections to force Democrats to be present, providing the necessary quorum to pass the bills, thereby thwarting Democrats’ efforts to stop the proposed new voter restriction laws.

Texas already has the most restrictive of these laws in the United States. The Texas Tribune cites the “cost of voting index,” 3 in an article about ranking states that make voting the easiest and the hardest. Texas already makes it the hardest of all 50 states. Many other studies have reached the same conclusion.

But Texas Democrats’ voting rights battle isn’t their last. This year, they also face the gerrymander and the way it empowers Republicans.

Given the upcoming U.S. census results – recalculated every decade - redistricting is looming. Using the gerrymander, Republicans with majorities in both houses of the Texas legislature can draw voting district lines to further “maximize the power” 4 of their political party.

In 2010, according to the Center for American Progress, the gerrymander and its “unfairly drawn congressional districts shifted on average a whopping 50 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives during the 2012, 2014, and 2016 elections.” The Center’s report 5 concludes as a result, “every other November, 59 politicians who would not have been elected based on statewide support of their party won anyway because the lines were drawn in their favor…”

Redistricting will give Texas Republicans the power to deny more minority rights over the next 10 years as the number of non-whites in the state keeps growing at a rate that will easily outpace the white population. 6 Under the U.S. Constitution, the United States is a majority rule nation with respect for minority rights. Thanks to gerrymandering, Texans are already being ruled by a Republican Party bent on increasing its power in spite of the state’s rapidly changing demographics.

Jodie Sinclair is an award-winning writer who holds a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University and resides in Bandera, Texas.

1. msnbc.com/transcripts/transcript-rachel-maddow-show-7-12-21- n1273800

2. texastribune.org/2021/07/08/texas-voting-bill-special-session/

3. newsroom.niu.edu/2020/10/13/ how-hard-is-it-to-vote-in-your-state/

4. www.americanprogress.org/issues/ democracy/news/2019/10/01/475166/ impact-partisan-gerrymandering/

5. www.americanprogress.org/issues/ democracy/news/2019/10/01/475166/ impact-partisan-gerrymandering/

6. www.texastribune.org/2019/06/20/ texas-hispanic-population-pace-surpass-white-residents/