How Texas Wants to Prevent Latinos from Voting

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“Joe Biden can end the election on election night. All it takes is an investment in Texas,” wrote former presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke and Way to Win co-founder Tory Gavito in an article for the Post over the weekend.

They argued the strategy considering Texas’ 38 electoral votes are the “highest stakes of any state.”

“If Texas turns blue that night, and its 38 electoral votes go to Biden, then Trump would have no viable path to victory, and the election would be over that night, before Trump’s lawyers can get through the courtroom doors to stop the vote counts in other states,” they added.

The issue is so evident that both Democrats and the state’s Republican system have put their focus on it.

As NBC News explained, the coronavirus pandemic is only the latest obstacle in a historic string of hurdles imposed by Texas’ Republican monopoly for decades, especially considering the state’s growing Latino population.

Hispanics in Texas represent nearly 40% of its total population and are on track to be the state’s largest demographic next year, the media reported. And as long as those numbers are directly reflected in the polls, GOP failure is imminent.

While COVID-19 has claimed the lives of 15,000 people in the state, 56.% of whom are Hispanic, Gov. Greg Abbott has decided to use the situation to put voters between a rock and a hard place.

NBC reports that Abbott has refused to expand absentee voting to make the process easier for people who worry about being exposed to the virus. The governor extended early voting by six days, but others in his party are suing to prevent that expansion.

Finally, Abbott went further and announced the closure of satellite locations for Texans allowed to vote by mail, allowing only one mailbox per county, arguing the risk of “illegal voting.”

The measures, seen up close, will primarily affect a large number of urban counties where Democrats have begun to win during the last election, including Harris County, the nation’s third-most populous county.

“Texas has a long history; it’s the state that has the most pronounced, overt, racist voter suppression tactics that we know of,” said Lydia Camarillo, president of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, formed in 1974 when Mexican Americans were still being kept from voting.

Following Abbott’s decision, and agreeing with Camarillo, the League of Women Voters of Texas, the National League of United Latin American Citizens, and the League of United Latin American Citizens sued the governor over the change that puts an unreasonable burden on voters during the pandemic. “They will have to travel further distances, face longer waits, and risk exposure to COVID-19, in order to use the single ballot return location in their county,” according to the suit.

The Intercept reported Abbott’s proclamation about the ballot drop-off locations is widely seen as voter suppression “yet another thinly disguised attempt to stymie the vote,” as the state chapter of the ACLU put it.

“There’s no legitimate reason to close satellite drop-off locations,” Wesley Story, communications associate at Progress Texas, said of the governor’s decision. “This is a blatant attempt by Gov. Abbott to suppress voters because the Texas GOP is afraid of the ballot box.”

However, the governor’s strategy does not stop there.

The Intercept also reported on another provision of the proclamation Abbott issued last week that allows election observers “to observe any activity conducted at the early voting clerk’s office location related to the in-person delivery of a marked mail ballot.” The provision seems to be a direct response to a comment Trump made during his debate with Joe Biden last week urging his supporters “to go into the polls and watch very carefully.”

In other words, it is a strategy of intimidation against voters who, if they vote in masse and overcome the Republican blockades, could decide the most crucial election in recent decades.