Democratic Party Should Shift Attention to Texas in Future

 Texas on Super Tuesday in the wake of numerous accusations of rampant voter suppression across the state. This voter suppression could have contributed significantly to Biden’s win in the state. This result is alarming and something that the Democratic Party must take notice of and capitalize on in future elections.

Texas is one of 21 states in the U.S. ruled by a Republican “trifecta,” meaning that the Texas House of Representatives, the State Senate, and the office of the governor of Texas are all currently controlled by Republicans. There has been a Republican trifecta in Texas since 2003, essentially giving Republicans relatively unchecked power in the state. 

This trifecta allowed significant changes to occur in Texas after the Supreme Court of the United States’ decision in Shelby County v. Holder in 2013. In a 5–4 decision, the SCOTUS ruled that states and local governments no longer needed to get clearance to change their voting laws and practices as they once were required to do under the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This case allowed states to enact discriminatory policies and practices to influence the results of elections.

After this decision, there were several states that passed notably discriminatory voting policies, Texas included. The Texas State Legislature enacted voter identification laws that made it increasingly difficult for people to vote. There was even a case in which State Senator Wendy Davis and former Attorney General, Governor Greg Abbot, were barred from voting for a period of time because the names on their voter identification cards did not match the names that were on the voter rolls; they eventually were allowed to vote only after signing an affidavit. These kinds of voter identification laws are so strict that even state elected officials had trouble voting because of them. Thus, it is important to note that while these laws can and do affect all voters, they disproportionately affect voters of color within the state. 

Further, the Texas state government has closed 750 voting sites since 2012. According to a study by the Leadership Conference Education Fund, Texas had only one polling site per 7,700 residents as of 2018, while in 2012 — before Shelby County v. Holder — they had one polling site per 4,000 residents. The polling sites that were closed were primarily located in counties with high populations of people of color or in counties with rapidly growing POC populations. 

Despite the fact that Texas has one of the highest populations of people of color in the country and one of the most rapidly increasing populations of any state in the U.S., Texas has one of the highest rates of poll site closures in the country between 2012 and 2018. The Leadership Conference Education Fund also found that in the 50 Texas counties with the highest POC growth rates between 2012 and 2018, there were 542 polling sites closed. Alternatively, in the 50 counties with the lowest POC populations only 34 polling sites were shut down. These closures occurred despite the fact that the population within the counties where 542 polling sites were closed grew by almost 2.5 million. 

As a result of these polling site closures, people in these counties had to wait in excessively long lines to cast their ballots in the Democratic primary this Tuesday. Hervis Rogers was the last person to vote at his polling site at Texas Southern University, and he waited a total of seven hours to finally cast his vote. 

“I wanted to get my vote in to voice my opinion,” said Rogers. “I wasn’t going to let nothing stop me, so I waited it out … it was set up for me to walk away … But I said ‘Nah, I’m not going to do that.’”

Unfortunately, this was not an isolated instance. Many voters in Texas had to wait anywhere between three and five hours to vote in this primary. 

This is especially concerning considering that the race in Texas between Sanders and Biden was extremely close in most counties. In many counties, Sanders was edged out by only a point or two. The fact that the POC community — particularly the Latinx community, who largely turned out for Sanders across the board for the primary — was directly disadvantaged in the polling booths certainly had a huge effect on the outcome of not only the primary in Texas but also the remainder of Super Tuesday primaries as a whole. Of the primaries on Tuesday, Texas has one of the highest delegate counts, second only to California. Had there not been voting barriers in place against the POC community in Texas, Sanders might have been able to win the race in Texas and would have gained a significant number of delegates as a result. This would have had the potential to change the course of the entire Democratic primary. 

However, there is one good thing that we can take away from this situation. The high rates of voter suppression and gerrymandering in Texas are indicative of the Republican Party’s fear that it will soon irreversibly lose Texas. 

As Texas’s population is exploding, the state is experiencing a drastic change in its political climate. Domestically, most of these individuals are moving to Texas from California, New York, and Illinois — more left-leaning states. This movement is certainly contributing to Texas’ shifting political climate.

Furthermore, younger voters and voters of color in Texas have had a much higher turnout than in previous years, despite the struggles they may face with lines at the polls and voter identification laws. Both these groups tend to be more left-leaning, and therefore they are also contributing to the shift in Texas politics. 

So long as Texas’ governorship and state legislatures are dominated by Republicans, they will continue to do what they can to suppress the votes of minority groups, be it through methods such as gerrymandering or through closing down even more voting booths. However, it is more important than ever that these voters continue to turn out if they are able and that people in positions of power help these groups overcome barriers to voting. 

The Democratic Party needs to pay attention to Texas. While it is true that a blue Texas would give Democrats an upper hand in political races for years to come, Democrats should turn their attention to Texas for the simple fact that these egregious attempts at voter suppression have gone unchecked for over six years now. It is a direct and blatant attack on the rights of communities of color. As long as Texas remains a red state, communities of color will be increasingly sidelined by Republicans and excluded from the electoral process.