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Voter Suppression Efforts Could Be Backfiring on Republicans

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24.10.2020

Voters stand in line for the first day of early voting at the Metropolitan Multi-Services Center in Houston on October 13.Mark Felix for The Washington Post via Getty Images

In the last week of September, Chris Rollins, the county clerk of Harris County, Texas, sent out mail ballots to voters in the Houston area who had requested them and set up 12 locations where voters concerned about delays with the US Postal Service could drop their ballots off. Then, on October 1, just as voters had started to return their mail ballots, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott issued an emergency declaration limiting mail ballot drop-off sites to one per county. The move appeared designed specifically to make voting harder in Harris County, the largest county in the state, which has 2.4 million registered voters and a larger landmass than Rhode Island.

It was the latest attempt by Texas Republicans to depress turnout in a state with a long record of voter suppression. Texas has no online registration. Voters need a valid excuse to get a mail ballot—and for those under 65, fear of contracting COVID-19 doesn’t count. The state’s voter ID law allows you to vote with a gun permit but not a student ID.

Yet when early voting began in Texas on October 13, Abbott’s plan to limit Democratic participation appeared to backfire, as voters in Harris County, where voters of color make up a majority and where Hillary Clinton won by 12 points in 2016, surged to the polls.

The numbers in Harris County have been astonishing. A record 128,000 people voted on the first day of early voting, up from 68,000 in 2016 and a higher turnout than the entire state of Georgia on the same day. Turnout has barely dropped since then. On Friday, Harris County surpassed 1 million early votes, exceeding its total from 2016 with a week of early voting still left, and nearly equaling the 1.3 million people who voted overall in 2016.

Hollins, the first Black clerk in Harris County history and the youngest at 34, credits a backlash against voter suppression for the unexpectedly high turnout. “Efforts to suppress votes in Texas and across the South have very........

© Mother Jones


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