GOP efforts to make voting harder spur massive lines in Texas primary


Texas has closed 750 polling locations since 2012 — many in counties with high numbers of African American and Latino voters.

Many Texas voters were forced to stand in line for several hours on Super Tuesday before being allowed to cast their ballot, thanks to Republican voter suppression efforts that have closed hundreds of polling locations across the state in recent years.

Voters across Houston and Dallas had to wait as long as two hours to vote, with massive lines at libraries, elementary schools, and student centers, the Texas Tribune reported.

Former Vice President Joe Biden eventually won Tuesday's Texas Democratic primary with 33.6% of the overall vote. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders finished just behind him in second place, with 30.1% of the vote.

Despite polls closing at 8 p.m., Hervis Rogers didn't cast his vote at Texas Southern University until after midnight. He had been forced to wait in line for almost seven hours.

"The way it was going, like it was set up for me to walk away," Rogers said in an interview with the local FOX 26 television station. "But I said 'no, I'm not going to do that.' Every vote counts."

Several observers have noted that the long lines were due at least large in part to an intentional effort by Republicans to suppress voter turnout in the state.

The Galveston County Democratic Party tweeted Tuesday evening that the long lines "were created by our Republican elected officials." Republicans control the state legislature and governor's office in Texas.

Ari Berman, author of the book "Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America," also noted that students at a historically black college in Houston had been forced to wait up to four hours to cast a ballot.

"This is what voting in Texas looks like after the Supreme Court gutted [the] Voting Rights Act," he tweeted.

Previously, Texas was required to obtain approval from the Justice Department to make significant changes to how and where people vote because of the state's history of voter discrimination efforts.

In June 2013, however, the Court invalidated a key part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act which allowed Texas and eight other southern states to change their election laws without that advance approval.

Since then, Texas has closed 750 polling locations across the state, according to a 2019 report from the Leadership Conference Education Fund.

Texas has in fact closed more polling locations since 2012 than any other state in the country. Analysis from the Guardian this month showed that 542 of the polling location closures took place in the 50 Texas counties that saw the greatest increase of Black and Latino residents from 2012-2018.

The 50 counties with the fewest Black and Latino residents saw just 34 poll closures in the same time period.

Republicans in other states have tried to enact their own voter suppression laws in recent years, many of which have been challenged in court.

In Florida last month, Democratic organizations won a victory against GOP efforts to force former felons to pay a poll tax in order to regain their right to vote. Democratic groups also went to court to force Republicans to stop rigging the ballots by listing Republican candidates first, a tactic that can give Republican candidates a 5% advantage.

In North Carolina that same month, courts overturned a voter ID law that was written to discriminate against African American voters in the state.

Democratic groups have filed lawsuits in Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina, and Texas to fight against similar Republican voter suppression efforts.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.