GOP voter suppression effort in Texas

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

I ran across this interesting post by Karoli the other day Democracy, Corrupted | Crooks and Liars that is worth a read, but I want to focus on just the portion about Texas:

In Houston, 10,000 voting machines and associated data spontaneously combusts, incinerating the machines and tapes, and leaving a right-wing Republican's allegations of voter fraud standing with nothing to prove or disprove them.

* * *

Houston's lost machines: Boon or Bust?

On August 27, 2010, all of Harris County's voting machines were destroyed in a suspicious early-morning warehouse fire. One would suppose that such a fire might be of benefit to Harris County voters, who are routinely accused of voter fraud without much in the way of credible evidence.

But this is a voting machine story with a weird twist. Some believe the destruction of Harris County's voting machines 51 days before early voting starts really benefits Republicans more than Democrats.

Whether or not early voting machines are re-used on election day, a shortage of machines will be an issue. Polling places might go from having six machines to one, potentially creating huge lines and delays. Another option would be to abandon the polling place model and use a limited number of election centers, as in early voting. This would eliminate the need to wipe machines but wouldn't negate the potential effect of long lines.

On the other hand, the machines that burned were made by Hart InterCivic, and are possibly less reliable than Diebold machines. The obvious solution would be to simply use and count paper ballots, but Republicans object to paper ballots on the grounds that they are more unreliable than electronic voting.

In a counterpoint, however, Glenn W. Smith argues that the loss of the voting machines disenfranchises Harris County voters as part of a larger effort. He points to Republican astroturf organization "True the Vote" as evidence of the effort to systematically disenfranchise voters to guarantee Republican wins.

His ideas aren't just the stuff of conspiracy theorists. One of the little-discussed issues around these midterm elections is redistricting — a specialty of Dick Armey's ten years back. Gerrymandered districts make Republican majorities that much stronger, and these elections will determine the players in the redistricting battles looming next year. Republicans desperately want to control the process and the outcome.

True the Vote is a well-funded group, clearly the product of Tea Party Republicans. It is the brainchild of the King Street Patriots, led by Catherine Albrecht, a well-connected Texas Republican and manufacturing company owner. Immigration reform and voter fraud seem to be Albrecht's pet projects, and she has the attention of the Liberty Institute as a result. Her highly-produced "sound the alarm" video calls patriots to action with this exhortation:

If we lose Houston, we lose Texas. And guess what? If we lose Texas we lose the country.

Could the lost voting machines mean voters are disenfranchised in Harris County? Well, yes, if Republican election officials decide to reduce the number of precincts or borrow flawed voting machines from neighboring counties. On the other hand, if election officials opt for paper ballots, it would be simple enough to move ahead with early voting and all precincts open at once. Will they? Probably not. They make the argument that Minnesota's paper ballot recount where Norm Coleman lost to Al Franken proves that paper ballots are bad.

One thing is sure: the chaos only benefits Republicans, not Democrats.

Here is the Glenn Smith Post from the Huffington Post, Glenn W. Smith: Possible Arson and the Right's Texas Voter Suppression Effort:

A mysterious fire last Friday destroys all of the voting machines in Harris County (Houston), Texas. Arson investigators have not yet issued an opinion. Meanwhile, a well-funded right-wing group emerges in Houston and begins raising unfounded allegations of widespread voter fraud. A video on their website pictures only people of color when it talks of voter fraud. White people are shown talking patriotically about the need for a million vigilantes to suppress illegal votes.

In the video, an unidentified spokesman for "TrueTheVote" says, "If we lose Houston, we lose Texas. And guess what? If we lose Texas we lose the country." The former Mayor of Houston, Democrat Bill White, is running against secessionist Republican Gov. Rick Perry this year. White's counting on a big turnout in his home town. The fire and the voter suppression campaign guarantee a greatly diminished turnout.

TrueTheVote's video is well produced. Participants speak in calm and knowing tones, disguising the racist agenda behind their project. We don't yet know where the group's money comes from. But they have money.

As I've said before, right-wing voter suppression campaigns are the most under-reported political scandal of the last 50-100 years. But there's never been anything like the criminal destruction of all the voting machines in the nation's fourth largest city. You don't have to be a conspiracy theorist to suspect the machines in Houston were destroyed by an arsonist. Warehouses don't regularly and spontaneously combust at four in the morning, especially warehouses containing all the voting tools in a pivotal city in a pivotal election.

In other details, the suppression campaigns follow a familiar pattern: raise suspicions of widespread voter fraud. Accuse "others" of stealing elections from us (read: white people). Threaten would-be voters with criminal charges. Limit polling locations in poor and minority precincts. Distribute spurious "felon lists" that disenfranchise legal voters who happen to share a name with a felon. Staff phone banks that make election calls to minority and poor voters giving incorrect polling locations and dates. Dress up vigilantes in cop clothes to intimidate would-be voters.

* * *

What about that TrueTheVote statement, "If we lose Houston, we lose Texas. And guess what? If we lose Texas we lose the country."? That may be the only true thing TrueTheVote has said. For much of the country, Texas is a vast right-wing breeding ground. Actually, Democrats have nearly reached parity in the state House of Representatives. All the elected officials in Dallas are Democrats. Austin, too. Most of the judges and many of the officials in Houston are Democrats.

With a strong turnout in Houston, White could very well beat Perry. Without a national effort to counter the largest voter suppression effort in my memory, that turnout won't happen. Even if the fire is ruled accidental, its consequences remain the same. If a great number of Houston voters are disenfranchised as a consequence of the fire and the right's election vigilante effort, democracy loses, and so does the country.

Keep in mind that population shifts will hand Texas several new congressional seats lost in the Democratic rustbelt. This election will decide the players who will draw new lines in redistricting. The stakes are high. The question is, do Democrats have the will to do battle with right-wing forces who believe they can choose who votes and who doesn't?

This type of fear mongering about "illegal voting" was prevalent in Arizona back in 2004 when then-Rep. Russell Pearce was pushing Prop. 200 and his lackey in the office of Secretary of State, Jan Brewer, promoted the notion that non-citizen illegal aliens were voting in Arizona elections. Wouldn't that imply that Secretary of State Jan Brewer was failing to do her job?

In fact, the only prosecution for voter fraud in many years in Arizona of which I am aware was a white Republican couple from Kansas living in Green Valley, AZ. Green Valley News & Sun – News > GV couple plead guilty in vote-fraud case.

Comments are closed.