The evening line at Houston's historically black Texas Southern University. Photo by Allyn West
Urging, "Let people vote!," critics are calling out the insanely long lines thousands of Texas voters of color endured on Super Tuesday, the result of a recent GOP purge of hundreds of polling sites, largely in fast-growing black and Latino communities, widely decried as "voter suppression, plain and simple." Enabled by the 2013 gutting of the Voting Rights Act by John Roberts' Supreme Court - "Making Jim Crow Great Again" - Repubs in power in Texas have shuttered more polling sites in a more egregiously racist pattern than any other state, according to the advocacy group Leadership Conference Education Fund. In a new report, they found that 750 sites had been closed statewide since 2012, with 542 closed in 50 black counties despite their population rising by 2.5 million people; in contrast, there were 34 closures in the 50 whitest counties, where population declined by 13,000 - a grossly disproportionate enough stat, some have noted, to keep UN voting-rights monitors ordinarily employed in Third World countries busy for a while. As a result, Texas GOP suppression efforts have helped the country's 2nd largest state, and a key battleground one, rank near the bottom for voter turnout. Today, with the GOP on the defensive amidst an increasingly diverse, liberal population, progressives argue Texas isn't so much a red state as a non-voting one. Still, given what's at stake this year, people turned out to vote Tuesday, or tried to.
Multiple reports of voters waiting for hours at chaotic polling sites - never mind the water, pizza, cookies from generous volunteers - prompted Democratic officials to charge the lines "were created by our Republican elected officials," and constituted "a poll tax" for people of color. Some of the longest lines were at Houston's historically black Texas Southern University, where people waited for several hours, chatting and checking their phones. The last person to cast a ballot there was Hervis Rogers, who arrived, chair in tow, around 7 p.m.; he'd come from one of his two jobs, and had tried two other sites that seemed too crowded. He had to be at his next job at 6 a.m., and when he saw the daunting line at TSU he almost went home. But he felt he had to stay. "It's insane, but it's worth it," he said. “I wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t vote...It might make a difference.” At 1:30 a.m, with the polls long closed and the state already called for Biden, Rogers happily cast his vote. He had waited six hours and twenty minutes: "I wasn’t going to let anything stop me." Voting just before him was Carla Reed; she'd waited six hours. On social media, people praised them and all voters as "American heroes" who persevered in the face of "GOP malice & forethought." True. But also damn: Our rights shouldn't come that hard, argued the Texas Civil Rights Project, which called the lines and suppression behind it "absolutely unacceptable." The bittersweet lesson of Rogers' determined vote, wrote The Atlantic's David Frum: “Nobody should be asked to be this impressive.”
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Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images
Reed and Rogers finally leave the scene of the GOP crime. Screenshot