People — mostly black and Hispanic people — had to wait in line for as long as seven hours yesterday to vote. This was because the Republicans who control the Texas state government are doing everything they can to stop people of color from voting:
At 1:30 a.m on Wednesday morning, Hervis Rogers was the last person to cast a ballot at a polling place on the campus of Texas Southern University, a historically black college in Houston. By that time the polls had long been officially closed and the state’s Democratic primary had already been called for Joe Biden. Rogers had waited six hours and twenty minutes to vote.
“I wanted to get my vote in, voice my opinion,” he told ABC13 in Houston. “I wasn’t going to let anything stop me, so I waited it out.”
There were similar reports of long lines in heavily Democratic cities across the state, including Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio. While voters in California also faced delays due to a shortage of polling locations and problems with new voting technology, the longest waits took place in Texas, particularly in Houston’s Harris County, where the population is 43 percent Latino and 19 percent black.
Texas’ troubles weren’t just a case of bureaucratic incompetence or aging election infrastructure: The long lines were also by design. As my colleague Sam Van Pykeren noted last night, from 2012 to 2018, Texas counties shuttered 750 polling places—more than any other state. The closures disproportionately harmed Democratic and minority voters. “The 50 counties that gained the most Black and Latinx residents between 2012 and 2018 closed 542 polling sites, compared to just 34 closures in the 50 counties that have gained the fewest black and Latinx residents,” according to a recent analysis in The Guardian.
Texas was allowed to close these polling places because of a 2013 Supreme Court decision gutting the Voting Rights Act that enabled states with a long history of voting discrimination like Texas to take such actions without federal approval. All together, states previously subject to such supervision have shut down 1,688 polling locations from 2012 to 2018, according to a report by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.
This is just straight up Jim Crow-style vote suppression, made possible by John Roberts and Co.
Let’s be clear: the only reason anyone has to wait in line to vote, let alone spend a whole day doing so, is because states don’t adopt very simple and straightforward vote by mail systems, such as that in Colorado, that allow voters to either mail in their ballot, or leave it in a drop box at any time from a week before the election through election night.
Making people stand in line at a polling place is no different, in 2020, from a poll tax. Shelby County is one of the five worst decisions in the history of the United States Supreme Court, and overturning it should be one of the very top priorities of the Democratic party for however long it takes to do that.