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Lone Star Project Report

Beware, Texas GOP Leaders Planning a Voter Purge

Make no mistake, the report issued late last Friday by the Texas Secretary of State alleging that thousands of non-citizens cast ballots in past Texas elections is a Trump-like effort to stir racial animosity against Latino and other minority Texans.  Just a cursory review has exposed thousands of errors.  The Secretary of State failed to even consider the thousands of Texas residents who are naturalized as American citizens each year and refuses to detail its methodology or reasons for publicizing the list now.

Since the release of the Secretary of State’s report,  local election officials have exposed it as badly flawed and inaccurate.  In McClennan County (Waco) the list is 100 percent wrong.  All 366 of the names listed as non-citizen voters are citizens and eligible to vote.  Yet, the Secretary of State has refused to correct or recall the faulty report, instead letting it circulate and amplify false fears.  
 
Key media outlets have raised appropriate questions about the report, but Texas GOP leaders are counting on their extremist Trump Party Republican base hearing the charges and ignoring details.  Of course, Donald Trump himself wasted no time including the flawed report in a tweet meant to stir racial animosity.
Don’t assume, though, that this unverified claim of noncitizen voting is just a device to gin up Trump Party acolytes by spreading racially charged rhetoric.  More likely, the report is the first step in a more destructive effort to justify a purge of Texas voter rolls.   

Nothing threatens one-party Republican control in Texas more than a large and diverse voting population.

In 2018, Democrats swamped Republicans in the large Texas counties with young activists and growing minority populations turning out in high numbers.  Beto O’Rourke nearly beat Ted Cruz.  Democrats picked up a dozen State House seats, all of them in districts with diverse populations, closing within just nine seats of a State House majority.
 
Nothing threatens one-party Republican control in Texas more than a large and diverse voting population.  The Texas minority population has been growing rapidly for years.  The latest population estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau show Anglos make up less than half of the Texas population.  The most popular Republican candidates receive no more than nominal support from African American voters and do only slightly better among Latinos.  Republican support from Asian voters is also in decline. 
 
To hold power, Texas Republicans have a choice to make:  either become more inclusive and earn the support of minority Texans OR take actions to undermine and suppress growing minority voting strength.  They’ve chosen the latter.  Consider their actions during this decade:
  • Texas Republicans adopted racial and partisan gerrymandered  congressional, State Senate and State House redistricting plans that Courts ruled violated the Voting Rights Act and were drawn with discriminatory intent.  Even after changes were demanded by the Courts, much of the damage done was retained.
  • Texas Republicans adopted the most onerous Voter ID law in the nation – so bad that a federal judge ruled it intentionally discriminatory and called it a modern-day poll tax.  The current Texas law remains restrictive and suppressive by any measure.
  • Texas Republicans adopted punitive voter registration laws.  For example, it is a crime in Texas for a person living in one county simply to assist a person living in another county to register to vote.
  • Texas Attorneys General – first Greg Abbott and now Ken Paxton – use millions in taxpayer funds to file briefs aggressively challenging, appealing and arguing AGAINST existing voter protections and FOR efforts designed to restrict and discourage minority voters or new voters of any race.

The next likely step by Texas GOP leaders Greg Abbott, Ken Paxton and Dan Patrick will be to use the Secretary of State report to justify a broad purge of Texas voter rolls using criteria that zeroes in on new and minority voters.  It’s a vote suppression tactic used in other Republican-controlled states with a history of racial discrimination.   Paxton and Abbott have already telegraphed their sentiments with press releases and tweets citing the most recent Secretary of State report.

 

The next likely step by Texas GOP leaders Greg Abbott, Ken Paxton and Dan Patrick will be to use the Secretary of State report to justify a broad purge of Texas voter rolls using criteria that zeroes in on new and minority voters. 

 
The challenge now lies with a vigilant media to not take any claim of voting problems from Texas Republican leaders at face value.  Current Texas and national GOP leaders have forfeited the benefit of the doubt long ago.  
 
Democrats, unaligned voters and the few remaining fair-minded Republicans must do more than fret and complain.  We must aggressively challenge, refute and call out efforts by Republican leaders who hold power by attacking the fundamental right to participate in our Democracy.
Matt Angle is founder and director of the Lone Star Project, which is a Democratic research and strategic communications organization.  Angle has been closely involved with Texas redistricting and voting rights issues, producing reports and appearing as an expert witness in redistricting litigation.

@lspmatt