By Jacob Vito
Harris County, Texas is home to many things. It lays claim to the massive city of Houston, an expansive oil industry and according to census data, roughly 4.7 million residents. However, this November, it may be home to only a single, lonely ballot drop-off box.
A recent decision from the fifth circuit court of appeals has upheld Texas Governor Greg Abbot’s restriction of ballot drop box locations to as low as one per county. While Govt. Abbot claims that the reduction in drop-off points will enhance election security, there is another motive behind his actions.
Ultimately, Gov. Abbot, along with a number of other members of the Republican Party, does not want a functioning absentee ballot system this year.
According to the New York Times, “82.3 million absentee ballots have been requested or sent to voters in 47 states and the District of Columbia for the general election, another indication that the number of Americans who plan to vote early or by mail will set records.” However, the demographics of those voters are undeniably skewed.
Republicans have listened to President Donald Trump’s disregard of the dangers of the coronavirus and fearmongering, according to the Washington Post.
Post writer Amber Phillips stated, “There’s evidence that Trump’s frequent warnings about mail voting are persuading Republicans to avoid it: While 95 percent of people who say they’re definitely voting for Trump are confident that their ballot cast in person on Election Day will be counted accurately, that goes down to 45 percent when asked how confident they are of the same outcome when voting by mail.”
This leads to a scenario detailed in a University of Maryland/Washington Post poll, which notes that while Republicans are expected to vote in-person 71 percent of the time this year, only 39 percent of Democrats will be doing the same.
A disparity such as this one allows for organizations like the Republican Party to do something rather sneaky. They can, without directly targeting Democrats, disrupt the channels through which they are overwhelmingly likely to contribute to the electoral process. By doing this, they can block the political will of their opponents through entirely legal means.
Such electoral interference could be extremely useful for the Republican Party in states like Texas. A Siena College poll from Sept. 24, found President Trump with only a 3 percent lead in the state, a gap small enough to make any conservative nervous.
A potentially split Texas would be a damaging blow to the Republican Party’s political power, and according to an analysis from Politico, would shift the state’s decades-long position as a conservative stronghold. Author Quint Forgey said, “Trump comfortably won Texas in 2016, seizing the state’s 38 electoral votes – the second-biggest Electoral College prize – by 9.2 percentage points. Texas has not been carried by a Democratic presidential nominee since Jimmy Carter in 1976.”
The actions of Gov. Abbot, when viewed alongside the political incentives for a Republican Texas in such unprecedented circumstances, make one thing extremely clear: the actions of the Republican leadership have been made with the express purpose of road-blocking democracy.
However, this isn’t necessarily new information. Trump has already questioned the validity of an election that does not show his victory and has not agreed to a peaceful transition of power. The more important factor here is who exactly is stopping the process.
It is important to note that this was not done by Trump nor a member of his executive command. Instead, this action was made by a Republican governor, a position theoretically outside of coercion from the White House.
In short, Gov. Abbot attempts at subverting democracy are of his own volition.
Actions such as these dismantle a narrative that many, including former Vice President Joe Biden, had actively bet their hopes on for the next four years: the return of the reasoned Republican.
Make no mistake, Trump’s knockoff fascism is no longer just the virus but a symptom of something beyond him. From the creation of fake and illegal ballot boxes in California to the ramming through of Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination, the mental image some hold of a cooperative Republican Party now actively betrays reality.
As much as people may want to think that rank-and-file Republicans will return to their bipartisan ways after Trump, there is no evidence to suggest such a thing would happen.
After all, this continued disregard for “playing fair” from countless conservative politicians has actively benefited them with disproportionate amounts of political power in local, state and national governments.
What’s more, their misdoings have not been actively punished, removing any reason for them to stop. It seems Republicans can sidestep the process while their opponents continue to follow norms they no longer abide by.
So, as long as there is an incentive to do so, Republicans will continue to break the rules, democracy be damned.
So now, something must be made extremely clear: the Republican Party, or at least those that hold power in it, have been actively fighting against democracy and will continue to do so. Regardless of who sits in the Oval Office come January, this is not likely to change.
There is no engaging in good-faith policymaking when one side of the aisle is trying to dismantle the very foundation of this country’s electoral system. To put it bluntly, Republican leadership cannot be trusted to follow any of the rules necessary for a liberal democracy.
Any Republican who does not wholeheartedly disavow these actions, which are and have been brewing among conservative and reactionary circles for quite some time, simply cannot be believed to actively wish for equal representation. And until those who currently lead that party are removed and the sentiments they held are eradicated, this will not change.
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