Democrats must draw a line in the sand in Texas

by Jennifer Rubin

Texas Democrats managed to run out the clock on state Republicans’ egregious Jim Crow-style bill that has nothing to do with “security” and everything to do with voter suppression. Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison tweeted over the weekend:

Even more dangerous, the legislation would make it easier for the Republican-dominated state government to overturn election results. As Democratic voting rights lawyer Marc Elias tweeted, “It lowers the burden of proof to overturn an election based on allegations of voter fraud.” He added: “The election challenger is no longer required to show that fraudulent votes resulted in a win.”

The bill plainly aims at creating hurdles to voting in Harris County, Texas’s largest county and the home of the state’s largest African American population. Even though there was virtually no fraud in Texas in 2020 (16 cases out of millions of votes cast) and the state has some of the most stringent voting rules in the country (Texas did not open up mail-in voting last year like many other states), Republicans insist on making it harder to vote by banning drive-through voting locations, which Harris County introduced last year, and prohibiting early in-person voting on Sundays before 1 p.m., directly aimed at Black churchgoers who often participate in “souls to the polls” events.

The Democrats’ victory in stalling the bill will be brief, as Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to bring the legislation back for a special session. Because the bill is so egregious and lacking in a plausible justification, it is here that voting rights advocates should stage an all-hands-on-deck battle to preserve voting access.

For starters, civil rights groups need to insist business groups do more than issue bland statements in favor of voting rights. Elias in a post for Democracy Docket blasted the messaging that businesses put out against Georgia’s voter suppression law: “What [corporate leaders] did not tell us then, and still have not explained, is what they are actually doing to protect voting rights. As it turns out, this is because they are not doing much of anything. Big Business has offered its thoughts and prayers for our democracy and is ready to return to making money.”

It’s very simple: If Texas businesses do not actively lobby against their state’s bill and refuse to give money to those who support it, they should face ongoing peaceful protests from employees and customers. Elias argues:

Businesses also must acknowledge their outsized role in financing candidates and political parties. If they want to help solve the crisis we are facing, they must stop contributing to or supporting candidates and the only major political party that actively opposes voting rights and undermines democracy. If a Fortune 500 company stands up for voting rights in public and simultaneously donates to Republican legislators who support voting restrictions or the Big Lie, it is not a champion of democracy. It is complicit in the very real and dangerous effort to weaken the very democratic principles upon which our democracy relies.

In addition, Texans who believe in democracy should visit the U.S. Capitol, present themselves as hearing witnesses and make the case for voting reform that House Democrats passed, including H.R. 1 (the For the People Act) and H.R. 4 (the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act). Explain that federal intervention is needed, just as it was in 1965, when the original Voting Rights Act passed because states were fundamentally hostile to running fair and free elections. They can turn up the heat on Democrats wary of changing the filibuster rules and challenge “good” Republicans such as Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) to oppose a measure that has no voting security rationale. If Cheney and her allies really care about democracy, they need to take a clear stand. Otherwise they are only a slightly less nutty version of the MAGA troops but equally dangerous when it comes to democratic elections.

Finally, Democrats and other voting advocates might want to set a goal this summer: Register half a million new voters in a state notorious for low registrationespecially among Hispanics. The effort to register Black people in Mississippi in 1964 was dubbed “Freedom Summer.” Sadly, 57 years later, a similar effort is needed in Texas — and elsewhere.

Democrats have in Texas the clearest target and the best set of facts they may ever come up in challenging voter suppression — in the state legislature, in the courts and in the U.S. Capitol. If they fail to take advantage, democracy will take a body blow.


Jennifer Rubin is for the Washington Post Opinion columnist covering politics and policy, foreign and domestic.

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