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How are Republicans depriving Texas of their right to vote?Experts explain | Texas

Happy thursday,

when Texas Republicans began creating radical new voting restrictions a few months ago, and there was no doubt that they were specifically targeting one place.

In their minds was Harris County, the state’s most populous county, with approximately 2.4 million registered voters. The democratic-friendly county, home of Houston, has provided voters with a series of new ways to vote in 2020, including opening polling stations 24 hours a day. Allow people to vote From their car.The county’s Supreme Election Authority also sent ballot applications by mail to all voters’ ages. 65 years of age or older..

According to Harris County data, more than 128,000 people used drive-through voting in 2020, and more than 17,000 people voted overnight between 7 pm and 7 am. In both cases, black, Asian, and Hispanic voters made up the majority of the voters.

A bill drafted by the Republican Party, which signed the law a few weeks ago, prevents Harris and all other counties from doing the same again. 24-hour and drive-through voting is completely prohibited. It also prohibits election managers from automatically sending mail ballots. The law already faces many challenges in federal court.

When I saw Republicans discussing the new law in Texas Parliament, I realized they were downplaying the consequences. Many of Harris County’s attempts in 2020 are new, and they insisted that it makes sense for the state to intervene and regulate them. “We don’t vote 24 hours a day in Texas, but we have a lot of opportunities to vote. We don’t do drive-through voting, but we give people with disabilities access to curbside voting,” said the Republican Party. Bryan Hughes, a state senator who played a central role in passing the bill, Said in late august..

I wanted to better understand why these restrictions were important, so I spoke to Harris County Election Director Isabel Longoria on the phone last week. Our conversation has been condensed and edited.

The Republican argument is that “Texas has never voted for a drive-through and we have the right to regulate it because nowhere else has it actually done.” is. Why is it the wrong reaction?

Until otherwise, everything is new. So it’s a bit strange to immediately avoid what might be new to Texas. The legislature is literally always looking at new legislation in Texas.

First and foremost, we voted for a pandemic, so we started with those ideas. How can voters be kept safe so that they do not have to sacrifice their health to access constitutional election rights? So we considered the best practices that everyone is doing. Curveside groceries. Drive-through banking. All industries were trying to find a way to keep people safe in the car to create a physical bubble.

We have opened access for one reason and have broken through the barriers of systematic barriers to voting and duration. Once you open the access, you cannot return the genie to the bottle.

What do you say to those who claim that “this is a rare thing Harris County was trying to do and was shaped by the situation in Covid and 2020,” and rolling it back is a big deal. Is there?

Again, we cannot stop learning what we have learned. You can use a lot of clichés here. Necessity creates innovation. The need to keep people safe during a pandemic has revolutionized voter access. Once you know how to safely and reliably perform them with all the great features, such as drive-through voting and 24-hour voting, why not continue to use these tools to help voters vote? why.

After this crazy 2020 election, what was it like as an election custodian to see these discussions in Congress?

Like the experts watching the bills pass through the legislature, the most disappointing thing for me is that the authors of these bills have never come to talk to me in Harris County.This is well documented [law] It was responsive to all the innovations made in Harris County. The author of this bill never contacted my office. I didn’t let any of the authors of this bill come to visit our election facility. Talk directly to us to confirm any conspiracy theories or claims against us. Therefore, the bill was written with great care, with only prejudiced and misleading reports. From partisan actors within the county or perhaps throughout the state.

The perception, created by this bill and centered around the message about the November elections, is that somehow there should be doubts about how the elections will take place. That’s a terrifying outlook for me.

Reader’s question

Thank you to everyone who asked good questions.You can write me a letter or send me a DM every week at sam.levine@theguardian.com Try it on Twitter @srl To answer as many as I can.

Originally from New Zealand and living in France, Ed wrote a letter to ask about filibuster and the US Senate. He said that requiring 60% of the members’ support to advance legislation would outlier the United States compared to the Senate in other countries. He asked what thoughts were given about limiting the power of the US Senate.

I don’t think there will be any immediate action to limit the power of the US Senate.

The Senate is as annoying as possible, but the founders designed it more carefully and to be a check of the US House of Representatives. However, in recent years, as you said, there is growing concern that the body is not representing the country and is changing from government checks to obstacles.

Not everyone in the United States is equally represented in the US Senate. Each state has two senators, so a less populated state gains as much voice as a large state. Currently, the Democratic Party has 42 million more people than the Republican Party in the Senate, but the constituencies are evenly divided by 50:50. This is a major change from 1950, when the Democratic Party represented 54 seats in the Senate, representing 82 million, and the Republican Party represented 68 million, with the remaining 46 seats. (This is Really good story This topic is by colleagues Tom McCarthy and Alvin Chang. )

That growing bay is why the call to abolish the 60-vote threshold you mentioned, also known as filibuster, is growing. Filibuster is a rule created by the Senate and is not included in constitutional or federal law. Defenders, including some Democrats, claim that it encourages compromise, but that doesn’t seem to have happened much these days.

How are Republicans depriving Texas of their right to vote?Experts explain | Texas

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