Eric Gay / AP
Texas already has some of the strictest voting laws in the country, and state Republicans are trying to make them even stricter. Most of the state’s Democrats flew to Washington, DC to prevent them from voting on a legislation they call voter oppression.
The center of the battle is Harris County, where Houston is located. The county is home to more than 4.7 million people and is more populous than Louisiana. Last year, Harris County introduced a series of voting innovations to make voting during the presidential election easier and safer. They included drive-through voting, extended voting time, including one day of 24-hour voting, and mailing ballots to all voters.
Joy Davis is a housewife and mother of a young son with severe autism. She voted at a drive-through location on the eastern side of Houston.
“Oh, that was great,” says Davis. “It was very convenient. It was a pandemic highlight before I was vaccinated, so I felt safe …. When I arrived, it was very simple, very easy, very easy. I just pulled. So go up and show my ID, they guided us to the tent, and you know we met a voting worker there, they gave us a ballot Gave us a machine to be able to throw, and that was it. I threw a ballot. “
Almost immediately, the Republicans urged to stop innovation. A lawsuit led by conservative activist Steven Hotze, state councilor Steve Toth, and R-The Woodlands would have cast about 127,000 votes cast at the drive-through location.
“And that was horrifying,” says Davis. “I felt deprived of my rights as a voter, and knowing that I did everything right, I showed my ID and voted, and you know So I’ve voted for everything in my life. I know it was possible, it was just horrifying. ”
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The proceedings eventually failed, but those banning mass mailing of ballots were successful. The latter case extended to the Texas Supreme Court, which unanimously ruled that then-Democratic county secretary Chris Hollins had surpassed his authority by allowing mass mailing.
After all, Harris County’s turnout was the highest in almost 30 years, close to 66%. The counties tend to be democratic, but in most cases local Republicans held seats. President Donald Trump at the time carried less than 6 percentage points in Texas.
The Republicans soon responded with a proposal to change the state’s election law. The alleged reason was to prevent fraud, but Governor Greg Abbott, who sought legislation, admitted that he knew there would be no serious fraud in 2020.
“It definitely seems to be directed at Harris County’s efforts to increase people’s voting opportunities,” said Jason Oliver, who used a drive-through voting site at the Toyota Center in downtown Houston. It was. “Shut down or reduce people’s access to mail ballots and reduce access to drive-through ballots.”
The law will also ban 24-hour voting. James Llamas took part in a midnight bike ride of 30 people from Midtown Houston to NRG Park on the south side of the city.He voted around 1am
“For us, it was because of the novelty of it, because it was the first time it was available,” says Lama. “But we wanted to support this option because … everyone has the privilege of choosing their working hours and participating in other options during Tuesday daytime and early voting. Because I don’t have it. That can be a barrier. Join. “
Lama was angry with Republican efforts to ban extended voting times. “To me, that seems like a pretty explicit attempt to limit access to voting,” says Lama. “That is, there are no legitimate security concerns about allowing people to vote hourly: the same process as noon, the same protocol at the polling place at midnight.”
Christina Crawford is an ER nurse who used a drive-through voting site in northwestern Houston, primarily because of COVID concerns. She is dissatisfied with the tactics that the Republicans used in an attempt to pass the bill.
“I think the bill played a lot of games, including the Republicans testifying until 1:45 am when they were told to start testifying at 8:45 am the other day. I think I played overnight. It’s the second time I’ve been at work and I’ve seen the bill discussed late at night, “says Crawford.
Democrats in the Texas House of Representatives broke the quorum twice to prevent passing voting restrictions. One is the end of the regular legislative session and is now a special session.
Maria Benzon, an assistant vice-principal who used a drive-through vote in Berea, just southwest of Houston, says she is proud of those lawmakers.
“Sometimes people need to shake the system to know what’s going on, and what’s happening in our state, and what the governor is trying to do, is very wrong. “Benzon says.
Benzon is particularly concerned that the law is deliberately aimed at discouraging the participation of minority voters.
“I believe that what the Democrats who left are trying to do is pay attention to the fact that what happens here is black and brown voters are allowed and not allowed, but they Will not be able to vote because of all restrictions, such as ID, limited time, no drive-through, and voting opportunities within 24 hours, “says Benzon.
Governor Abbott and Speaker of the House Dade Phelan are demanding Democrats to return from Washington, DC to work. But hospital worker Cylenthia Hoyrd, who used drive-through voting at NRG Park in Houston, says that’s what they’re doing by moving away.
When you were elected to the Legislature, Hoyrd said, “You represent people. You do what people want to do to you. And in their district, we don’t want this.” say.
Still, it’s unclear how long Democrats can go on strike.Governor Abbott told a radio show Texas Standard He was unwilling to compromise.
“When (Democrats) come back to Texas, we’ll call for a special session,” says Abbott. “If they are away from Texas, I will call another special session. In conclusion, we will continue to call the special session after the special session, after the special session, until the Texas business is complete. . “
In Texas, efforts to make voting difficult are a concern in Harris County: NPR
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