Julia Conley Politics Rights Voting

‘Four-Alarm Fire’ for Democracy as Texas Voter Suppression Bill Becomes Law

"Texas already had some of the most restrictive voting laws in the nation, and the passage of this egregious bill just made conditions for voters even worse," said one voting rights advocate.
Image of an "I Voted" sticker from Texas elections in 2020.
(Patrick Feller / Flickr)

By Julia Conley / Common Dreams

The voter suppression law signed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Tuesday already faces legal challenges that were promptly filed by a number of civil rights groups, which argue the restrictive measure is transparently aimed at keeping people of color from casting ballots and violates federal law.

Representing plaintiffs including the Texas State Conference of the NAACP, Common Cause Texas, and three election judges in Harris County, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed a legal challenge (pdf) accusing the GOP governor of violating the Texas Constitution. 

The scourge of state-sanctioned voter suppression is alive and well, and Texas just became the most recent state to prove it,” said Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee, in a statement. “With the passage of this bill, Texas legislators know exactly what they are trying to do—use brazen tactics to disenfranchise Black voters, Latinx voters, and other voters of color who are a growing part of the electorate and who turned out and made their voices heard in 2020. This bill violates Texas’ own state constitution and does not advance any legitimate state interests that would justify this wide-ranging attack on the right to vote.” 

The law, known as Senate Bill 1, increases the authority of partisan poll watchers by letting them move freely around polling locations—sparking fears of voter intimidation—while setting restrictions for voter assistants. People who volunteer at polling places to help voters will be barred from doing anything other than reading a ballot and telling voters where to mark it; answering questions or helping with translating a ballot could carry criminal and civil penalties. 

Such restrictions are clearly “an attempt to thwart the changing face of the Texas electorate,” Nina Perales, vice president of litigation at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, told the New York Times. The organization joined the Brennan Center for Justice in filing another lawsuit against the state.  

Texas’ Hispanic population grew by two million people between 2010 and 2020, according to census data, and state officials said in June that Hispanic people are likely to become the largest demographic group in the state this year. The law’s provisions will also negatively affect access to the polls for Black voters in Texas, many of whom used voting methods that were introduced amid the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, including early voting, ballot drop boxes, drive-through voting, and 24-hour polling places. 

S.B. 1 bans the latter two provisions and strictly limits the use of the former two.  

“Texas already had some of the most restrictive voting laws in the nation, and the passage of this egregious bill just made conditions for voters even worse,” said Jon Greenbaum, chief counsel and senior deputy director of the Lawyers’ Committee. “Make no mistake—S.B. 1 is designed to disenfranchise voters of colors, and strip them of their voice in our democracy. … This is a troubling day for voting rights.” 

The law also blocks local election officials from taking executive action in emergency situations, sending absentee ballot applications unless voters have specifically requesting them, and promoting the use of vote by mail. 

In addition to discriminating against communities of color, said Common Cause, S.B. 1 will put voters in harm’s way by forcing them to cast ballots in crowded polling places as the pandemic continues. 

“While Gov. Abbott signs legislation designed to make it harder for Texans to vote, tens of thousands of our friends and family are in the hospital fighting for their lives because of his misplaced priorities,” said Stephanie Gómez, associate director of Common Cause Texas. 

“Rather than making it easier for Texans to vote for elected leaders who will prioritize our health and safety above their political ambitions, Gov. Abbott has just attempted to silence voters from being heard in the next election,” she added. “In signing this anti-democratic legislation, Gov. Abbott has shown he cares more about suppressing our vote than suppressing the Covid-19 virus.”

Abbott said he believed the new law could be a “paradigm” for other Republican states hoping to pass similar election laws, just as Senate Bill 8, the state’s forced-birth law that’s drawn international condemnation from human rights experts, is already being used as a blueprint for states including Mississippi and Florida.

Eighteen GOP-led states have passed more than 30 laws restricting access to the polls this year, and hundreds more have been proposed.

Democratic legislators in Texas drew nationwide attention in July when they fled the State Capitol in order to block the voter suppression legislation and other measures. In a decision that was condemned by civil rights groups across the country, the all-Republican Texas Supreme Court ruled last month that the lawmakers could be arrested for denying the state GOP quorum.

Following Abbott’s signing of S.B. 1, voting rights advocates and Democratic lawmakers renewed calls for federal voting legislation, including the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and the elimination of the filibuster.

“S.B. 1 is the first significant piece of voter suppression legislation to be passed since the House of Representatives passed the 2021 version of John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which is designed to stop voting changes like these that worsen the opportunities for voters of color, and illustrates why this congressional legislation is necessary,” said Greenbaum. 

“Texas’ egregious voter suppression bill is now law,” said former Labor Secretary Robert Reich on social media, demanding to know why the Biden administration has not “made voting rights a top priority.”

“Meanwhile, voting rights legislation languishes in the Senate because [Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.)] refuse to work around the filibuster,” said Reich. “This is a four-alarm fire for our democracy.”

10 comments

  1. It is interesting that the USA seems to keep pretending it is a democracy and trying to justify its intervention all over the world. How can it have spent twenty years “nation-building” in Afghanistan when its own “homeland” is pathetically vulnerable to takeover by vigilantes as in Texas? Is Iraq an active multiParty democracy? has Syria been helped to overcome terrorists, or have they been supported by the USA? Is Libya the advanced country it was under “dictator” Ghadaffi? Is Venezuela now a thriving US style democracy? Did the USA do anything to intervene when the fascistic Bolsonaro took over following the overthrow and jailing of the two former leaders who dared to help the Brazilian populace?
    The USA claims the enmity of Russia and China, who refuse to intervene in nation-building, pretending they are threats when they dare to defend themselves. The USA’s “defense” is always aggression.

    1. It is very disheartening rosemary that the truth and reality don’t seem to hold much sway anymore. It’s a very ugly truth and a very ugly reality….perhaps it’s simply easier for the masses to simply pretend then have to face the monsters. Orwell nailed it with Ignorance is Strength…. along with War is Peace and Freedom is Slavery. I see it everywhere now, everywhere I look. It’s still covered by the thinnest gossamer veil of illusion, but it’s there and easily seen if you just look closely.

      Soon that veil will be gone altogether. Huxley now gives way to Orwell and the dystopia deepens….

  2. in all civilized nations–voter ID required and voting by mail not permitted except for citizens residing in other nations

    1. I am beginning to wonder if the term civilized nations is actually an oxymoron….like Military Intelligence.

    2. Texas is not civilized so I guess the things they do to limit the rights of its people are OK ? Why anyone would choose to live there is beyond me. Please stay away from New Mexico.

  3. America the land of illusion and delusion. Perhaps the reason the lies are so effective are because the people can’t face the truth. Our democracy…what there was of it to begin with….is dead and pushing up daisies. Scholarly works have been done to empirically prove it. Although to anyone with their eyes open and their mind clear can see it plainly without any scholarly guidance. It’s plain as day.

    The Corporates, led by Wall Street, Big Oil, Big Tech, Big Pharma in league with the Military Industrial Complex and the Deep State rule all and are beholden to no one and nothing other than their own greed and desire to own and control….everything.

    The people are divided, ignorant, brainwashed and devoid of empathy, community or unity. Lost in a land of illusion and delusion, repeating the same actions over and over again always hoping for a different result while their futures, hopes and dreams are slowly crushed in order to provide ever greater profits to fill their coffers.

    As bad as you think it is….let me assure you, it’s far worse. You need for your own personal survival and those you love, to embrace this concept and plan for the worst.

    Peace.

  4. Authentic Leftists recognize that the US does not function as a ‘democracy’. The ‘will of the people’ has no effect whatsoever on the decisions made by the Elites who run the US, and have firm control over both political parties. The Elites are able to exert control over “the will of the people” through the immense power of Mass Media.

    We are witnessing an intentionally contrived ‘epic struggle’ between two political parties that are BOTH controlled by ONE social agency, (by the Elites who run the nation).

    These Elites may pretend to favor one party or another, (and at various times may actually promote one party over the other), but in reality what the Elites favor most is the existence of the ‘epic struggle’ itself. They want people to be fighting each other, to prevent people from uniting to overthrow the power of the Elites.

    Creating social strife is the primary strategy for a small handful of Elites to continue to exert control over a nation of 330 million people. “Divide and rule”. Works like a charm.

    The comments above from Rosemerry seem to be very confused. She opens with a statement about the US “pretending to be a democracy”, then toward the end she asks if Venezuela is now a “thriving US style democracy”. What is a reader to think? Is the US a “thriving democracy”? Or just “pretending to be a democracy”?

    The Texas law being discussed here was passed by the elected representatives of the Texas legislature, not by “vigilantes”., as Rosemerry claims.

    Mr. Simmel points out that the provisions in the Texas law are rather routine provisions that “all civilized nations” use to prevent, or at least ameliorate, voter fraud.

    This article contains mostly statements from people who want more people who are not qualified ‘voters’, and even people who are not US citizens, to vote. That is, by FAR, the primary objection this article presents to the Texas law. The law “restricts” and “suppresses” the ability of people who are not US citizens from voting in US elections. (There are over 2 million illegal immigrants living in Texas, which is 7% of theTexas population).

    In the minds of many people on the US so-called ‘Left’, requiring voters to be US citizens who can read, write, and understand English, is ‘racist’, because it deprives ‘people of color’ of the ability to vote if they are not citizens who speak, read, and write English.

    This voter ‘restriction’ (suppression) is not created by the new Texas law. For generations, US Naturalization Law has required that immigrants must demonstrate proficiency in English before they can become naturalized citizens.

    Why is that not a ‘reasonable’ provision? The vast majority of Americans, 90% or more, agree that voting should be ‘restricted’ to US citizens, and that non-citizens should be “suppressed” from voting.

    What many people on the American so-called ‘Left’ call “voter suppression laws” are actually reasonable attempts to ensure fair elections. These provisions will not succeed in ensuring fair elections, of course, because our election process is being run by Mass Media, which are all owned and controlled by the Elites who effectively rule over the nation. But the Texas law makes reasonable attempts to prevent the voting process itself from being rigged in Texas..

    There are as many as 120 million people in the US, (are they all “vigilantes”, Rosemerry?), who believe that the 2020 election was ‘rigged’ by a highly organized “political machine”, the Democratic Party. Nearly one third of the American people (32%) STILL believe, (according to a widely reported recent, June 2021, poll), that widespread voter fraud was deliberately used to defeat Trump and elect Biden.

    Over 100 MILLION American citizens fully believe that the 2020 election amounted to a ‘coup’ organized by the owners of US Mass Media.

    Polls show that a vast majority of Americans, 70%-80% or more, agree with the primary provisions of these “voter suppression laws”. Well over 80% of the American people, for example, think that being required to show a valid ID in order to vote is a reasonable provision.

    Julia Conley, who writes for the notorious Common Dreams propaganda organization, (which masquerades as an outlet for ‘journalism’), is a very skilled propagandist. She fully reveals the Left’s fundamental dishonesty. The US Left has decided that they should fight lies with ‘better’ lies. They have come to believe that they can defeat the propaganda coming from our centrally controlled Mass Media with ‘better’ propaganda, (as distributed by the vast ‘megaphone’ of ‘mass media’ sites like Common Dreams and Scheerpost).

    As an authentic Leftist, I disagree. I believe that ‘the truth’, whatever it may be, is the Left’s most powerful potential ally.

    Too many people on the current US Left, as represented by fanatical lying propagandists like Ms. Conley, think that they can ‘fool’ the American people with lies better than the US Elites, (which control ALL Mass Media), can fool us with their lies.

    Here are the provisions of the Texas Law that this cunning liar and propagandist, Ms. Conley , lists as “attacks on democracy”.

    1) Election observers from all partisan parties are assured access to observe the processes of the voting and vote counting.

    2) Sets restrictions on election workers ‘counseling’ voters by ‘explaining’ the ballot to them, or translating the ballot provisions for people who want to vote but don’t speak or read English well enough to read and understand the ballot. (Again, US Naturalization Law requires that people must be able to read, write, and understand English in order to become US citizens).

    3) Sets restrictions on early voting, ballot drop boxes, drive-through voting, and 24-hour polling places. Drive-through voting and 24 hour polling sites are banned. Early voting, and ballot drop boxes, are simply modified to try to assure that these procedures will not contribute to voter fraud.

    4) Blocks local election officials from taking executive action in emergency situations. (Ms. Conley does not explain, at all, what this even means).

    5) Restricts sending out absentee ballot applications unless voters have specifically requesting them. (I personally received two such vote-by-mail applications in 2020, neither of which I requested. I did NOT apply for an absentee ballot, but was sent TWO ballots. (Gee, do we suppose that sending out excess ballots like ‘junk mail’ could possibly contribute to voter fraud?)

    6) Prohibits ‘promoting’ the use of vote-by-mail. It does NOT prohibit voting by mail. It simply prohibits local election committees from ‘promoting’ vote-by-mail.

    There are pros and cons to all these proposed provisions. There always are. All of the provisions in the Texas law are reasonable, however. Whether they are effective or not is another thing, but they are a reasonable attempt to prevent the repeat of the widespread voting fraud that over 100 MILLION Americans believe happened in 2020.

    The so-called American ‘Left, and people like Julia Conley,’ are foolish to believe that promoting ‘better’ lies will prevail over the lies constantly distributed through Mass Media.

  5. Mr. Simmel points out that the provisions in the Texas law are rather routine provisions that “all civilized nations” use to prevent, or at least ameliorate, voter fraud.

    Not an exception to the general rule that when somebody “points out” something – it’s a signal that a bald-faced lie follows. US voting restriction provisions, let alone Texas’s, are bizarre and unique. The idea of “voter fraud” is also unique to the US Right. The phenomenon doesn’t exist anywhere and never has. And so even the concept is nonexistent, except as a Big Lie propagated by fanatic US Right irrationalists.

    The aim of the laws are to prevent legal voters from casting legal votes. Demographics indicate that Texas is about to swing to the Left. So fanatic rightists – these days fascists might be the right word – want to stay in power. The “rigging” claimed here is what everyone else calls “democracy”. NO judges – no Republican judges could be found to support Trump’s ridiculous lies of a stolen election that N Speaks repeats. Because nobody ever presented any evidence. Because there was no evidence. Actually, it was a triumph of our judicial system. As the percentage of born-yesterday credulous belief in these lies is a failure of our political / social system.

    George Simmel and N Speaks are the propagandists here. Right wing propagandists – the latter posing as being “an authentic Leftist” is a joke.

    1. That’s exactly right. The idea is to keep qualified voters who will likely vote for a Democrat out of the system. In fact, this disenfranchisement has been going on for some time, and the Dems are doing virtually nothing about it. It’s almost like they’d rather run around screaming about it in order to raise more money.

  6. N SpeaksSEP has it right.

    “Our” basic institutions are fraudulent.

    “Our” elections have been rigged for some time now — Iran has a theocratic filter for participants, the US has a money filter. Both Obama presidential campaigns and that of Joe Biden cost one billion dollars each. Anyone think the payees got some bennies in return?

    Rot is inherent.

    The way the Senate is structured virtually assures white minority rule, and control by the most out-of-touch elements of the population. As a last resort, the filibuster.

    Gerrymandering tops off the structural fraud, this is all a con game.

    The Constitution is an outmoded, 18th century structure that inhibits progress and assures minority white rule.

    Separation of powers is a Rube Goldberg Machine.

    The US government is hamstrung by legal and de facto power limitations that gunk everything up.
 Division of tasks makes sense, but setting up conflicting interests is dumb.

    The Supreme Court, which elected George W. Bush and OK’d Citizen’s United, is transparently political.

    Amy Barrett re-issued Nixon’s “I am not a crook” statement, underlining the truth about the Supreme Court.

    Breyer issued a similar muddled liberal version of this nonsense, and the Court’s ever-miniscule intellect, Clarence Thomas, said the same.

    The states are also a damaging and incoherent anachronism. They bear little resemblance to the actual social and economic structure of the country, Duplication, waste, incoherence, places where backwardness can thrive.

    For the capitalist mindset: try imagining a major corporation that works like that.

    Once you stop thinking of these things as sacred texts, their idiocy becomes clear.

    Some 80 million non-voters agree.

    A majority said they believe it makes no difference who is elected president and that things will go on just as they did before. Two-thirds agree, for example, that voting has little to do with the way that real decisions are made in this country; they are 21 points more likely to say so than people who voted.

    They are correct.

    Once the GOP voting apartheid laws go into effect, helped along by president Manchin, only a minority of voters will accept the outcome of any election their side loses.

    We are the subjects of an oligarchy that’s neither competent nor legitimate.

    No one can vote against the interests of the corporate oligarchy, both “parties” are totally bought-and-sold.

    There are no peaceful options available for necessary change.

    It’s terminal..

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