It was March 3, 2020, the day of the Democratic primary in Texas, and Hervis Rogers, a 62-year-old Black man, was intent on making his voice heard at the ballot box. He arrived at the polling place around 7 p.m. and joined the line.
The polling place later closed to new people joining the line, but Rogers remained. Other people trickled away, unable or unwilling to wait, but Rogers remained. He stayed in that line for nearly seven hours until he was finally able to vote at 1:30 a.m.
Rogers also voted in the November 2018 election.
But there was a complication: Rogers was out on parole for a 1995 second-degree felony conviction for burglary. His parole was set to end in a few months, but it hadn’t ended when he voted in the primary.
As The Texan has reported, “According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Rogers’s parole extended to June 13, 2020. In 2016, however, he signed and submitted a voter registration card swearing that he was not finally convicted or on parole at the time.”
This, in Texas, is against the law — and punishable by a severe sentence, at least for those who “knowingly” violate this election law. Rogers claims that he didn’t knowingly do so, but it doesn’t matter: He is a Black man with a criminal history, a perfect boogeyman and scapegoat to help illustrate a virtually nonexistent problem of voter fraud.
On Wednesday, the day before the Texas Legislature was to convene in a special session called by the governor to pass a draconian voter suppression bill that Democrats had blocked in the regular session by walking out, authorities in Texas made a huge splash by arresting Rogers. The New York Times last week interviewed one of Rogers’s lawyers, Tommy Buser-Clancy, a senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, and reported that Rogers “could face upward of 40 years in prison — 20 years for each charge, according to Mr. Buser-Clancy, who added that Mr. Rogers’s past criminal record meant that the sentence could be even higher.”
This entire case is an abomination. Rogers became the straw man for their special session.
But the history of pursuing Black people for voter fraud is long. It is a form of terror as a deterrent. It is a scare tactic aimed at the Black people who intend to vote and for the benefit of the white electorate nervous that their electoral power and supremacy is in retreat.
There is a very good chance that Rogers will spend the rest of his life in prison, for his mistake in trying to follow Texas’s byzantine election laws, and Texas Republicans are definitely hoping that other Black voters in Texas just give up preemptively. Truly vile stuff.