Wisconsin Republican leaders made a horribly irresponsible decision when they forced voters to choose between exercising their right to vote and possibly catching or spreading the deadly coronavirus.
The recklessness is not limited to Wisconsin.
Here in Texas, Republicans are also hell-bent to block reasonable actions to allow all Texans to safely and securely vote by mail this year to keep voters safe and to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Republicans Set Up a Roadblock for Voting by Mail
Last week, the GOP-appointed Texas Secretary of State issued voting guidelines that failed to give local election officials reasonable directions on how to accept mail-in ballot applications sent by voters concerned about exposure to the coronavirus. Instead, the SOS implied that each county must seek a local court order.
The refusal to provide explicit direction puts Texas voters in exactly the same situation as those in Wisconsin: risk exposure to a deadly disease or forfeit your right to vote. The confusion will undoubtedly decrease participation in the July primary run-off elections and sets the stage for many more voters to miss the November General Election. This move is intentional and expected from a GOP that relies on voter suppression to hold onto power.
Attack on Mail Ballots Hurts ALL Voters
For years, Republican leaders in Texas have worked to lower election participation by minority voters. As Attorney General and as Governor, Greg Abbott has been the leader in efforts to limit and deny voting rights to people of color.
Recently, the Republican Party of Texas, without evidence and against the advice of the CDC and the U.S. Postmaster General, emailed a fundraising solicitation that claimed voting by mail would spread the virus. The claim is ludicrous. A study from UCLA says “voting by mail is a safe, if not safer, alternative” to voting in-person.
The current refusal to expand mail-in voting during a pandemic will restrict voter participation much more broadly—not the GOP’s usual focused suppression of populations that traditionally support Democrats.
In Trump’s GOP, Texas Republicans are acting on their belief that a higher voter turnout generally risks their hold on power. They are worried that large numbers of independent and fair-minded Republicans are poised to cast ballots for Democrats and jeopardize Trump Republican one-party control. Trump himself stated it clearly.
Democrats File Suit to Make Voting Safe and Secure
It all comes down to a very fundamental difference between the two parties: Democrats believe in protecting and enhancing voting rights for all Americans, regardless of the election results — Republicans do not.
So, it makes sense that the Texas Democratic Party would call on the judiciary to direct Texas election officials to allow all Texas voters the opportunity to vote by mail. The TDP filed a lawsuit to clarify vote-by-mail rules during this crisis. They want state and federal courts to rule that any registered Texan concerned about their health can request and cast their ballot by mail.
Voting by mail is an easy and safe answer to ensuring the health and safety of Texas citizens while protecting the most essential element to our democracy. Hundreds of thousands of Texans already vote by mail and we could easily extend the option to all Texans.
Republican Attacks on Voting Endanger Us All
We have come to expect voter suppression tactics from Republican elected officials. It has become clear that the harshly divisive, narrow-minded Trump ideology of today’s GOP has made the Republican Party increasingly less appealing. They must now rely even more on strategies to shrink the electorate to win.
Republicans traditionally rely on voters who are generally more susceptible to dying from COVID-19. So, it is a sad irony that their shameful, insidious attempt to suppress voter participation will expose a disproportionate amount of their traditional voters to the virus—and in the process hasten the collapse of their party.