Arizona, Vice President Joe Biden, Jill Biden, Texas, Voting Rights, Democrats

Arizona, Vice President Joe Biden

As Arizona, Texas and Georgia become less white, voter suppression could keep these states from turning blue

As Arizona, Texas and Georgia become less white, voter suppression could keep these states from turning blue

10/14/2020 4:30:00 AM

As Arizona , Texas and Georgia become less white, voter suppression could keep these states from turning blue

Fast-growing Black and Latino populations and more organizing by Democrats have turned Texas , Georgia and Arizona into potential battleground states.

An expanding liberal base, fast-growing Black and Latino populations and more aggressive get-out-the-vote efforts by Democrats have turned these traditionally red states won by Trump in 2016 into potential battlegrounds.Biden's campaign recently announced it would spend $6.2 million on TV advertising in Texas during the final weeks of the presidential campaign. And Jill Biden, the wife of Joe Biden, is set to visit the cities of El Paso, Houston and Dallas on Tuesday, when early voting begins in Texas. She will host"Get Out The Vote" rallies in each city. 

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A Democrat has not carried Texas in a presidential election since 1976; Georgia since 1992; and Arizona since 1996.As of Monday, Biden leads Trump by 2.7 points in Arizona, according to a RealClearPolitics polling average. Trump led Biden by 0.4 points in Georgia. And Trump is up by 4.4 points in Texas – a slim margin by Texas standards.

Democrats in all three states have complained for years of efforts by Republican leaders to restrict voting access by creating strict voter ID laws, purging voters off the rolls, passing "exact match" voting laws, closing polling places and allowing long wait times at predominately Black precincts. These tactics disproportionately target Black and Latino voters who tend to vote Democratic and who have been hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed nearly 215,000 Americans, experts and voting rights advocates say. 

Most recently, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott mandated that all counties designate just one drop-off location for absentee ballots. Democrats blasted the change as an effort to suppress votes in a tight election.Story continuesOn Friday, a federal judge blocked Abbott's order, saying it placed a burden on the voting rights of elderly and disabled Texans who are most likely to vote with mail-in ballots. However, it was quickly appealed, and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay that put the judge's ruling on hold. 

In a ruling Monday, the court of appeals upheld Abbott's order, allowing the drop-off sites to be closed.Trump has also promised to deploy campaign volunteers out to watch the polls on Election Day –  a move critics say could intimidate voters. 

LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Georgia-based Black Voters Matter, said Republicans are creating a "culture of fear and confusion” among people of color who are most likely to vote Democratic. "All of their actions are connected to restricting people in a time when they need as much access as possible because of the (pandemic) conditions," Brown said."They have had to resort to the only way that they can stay in power, and that is to cheat. They simply do not have the numbers, they simply do not have the support."

But Republican backers say that isn't the case.Allen West, chairman of the Texas GOP, said Republicans are trying to ensure a fair election and cut down on potential irregularities. “We need to make sure we have election integrity,” West said. “We need to make sure we have control of this process.”

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State lawmakers have had the authority to enact new voter restrictions since 2013, when the U.S. Supreme Court gutted a section of the Voting Rights Act requiring certain states and cities to obtain federal approval before changing voting laws or practices.

After the court struck down the law, which targeted states with a history of voter discrimination, Texas saw 750 polling locations close, Arizona lost 320 and Georgia closed 214, according to a report released last year by the Leadership Conference Education Fund. Voting rights advocates argued the court's decision made it easier for elections officials to disenfranchise Black and Latino voters. 

Elections officials in Georgia came under fire this year for issues at polling places during the June 9 primary.Some voters waited up to seven hours to cast ballots in Black and brown communities, others were turned away without being sure their provisional ballots would be counted. Voters also reported problems with poll workers unable to operate voting equipment. 

The state's gubernatorial election in November 2018 saw similar issues. However, Democrats still made gains. Stacy Abrams won the most votes of any Democratic candidate in Georgia history in 2018. She lost the bitterly fought election to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp by 1.39 percentage points. 

That same year, Democrats flipped 14 state House seats in the Atlanta area.On Monday, the first day of early voting in Georgia for the Nov. 3 presidential election, voters complained of long lines at polling locations across metro Atlanta and waiting six hours to vote. Elections officials reported a technical glitch with voter check-in computers that caused delays at one polling location. 

A voter just shared this photo with me. She waited six hours to early vote today in Marietta— an Atlanta suburb.— Nicquel Terry Ellis (@NTerryEllis) October 12, 2020Brown said the voter suppression tactics are motivating Black and brown people across the country to fight the opposition by voting. More than 5.6 million people have voted early in the presidential election so far this year, an increase of roughly 75,000 more people compared with voter turnout at this point in the 2016 election, according to the United States Elections Project.

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 "People are very, very focused and determined," Brown said. Democrats point to favorable demographic shifts in those states as a reason to hope for victories in Arizona, Texas and Georgia: Andra Gillespie, a political scientist at Emory University in Atlanta, said Georgia could potentially turn blue this year because of these demographic shifts – particularly an ever-growing Black population in metro Atlanta – and more organizing by Democrats. 

“I think it's legitimate to look at Georgia as a competitive state," Gillespie said."Look at the margins by what Republicans have been winning. Those margins have been narrowing over time."Arizona is also experiencing a change in demographics with its growing Latino population. Organizers say they have been aggressively working to get more Latinos registered to vote this year.

There is also an effort in Arizona to register and educate Native American voters living on reservations who could potentially sway the election. A June 2020 report by the Native American Right Fund found that many Native Americans are disenfranchised because they don't have a formal address where they can receive mail on their reservation and live far from post offices.  

Earlier this year, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned two Arizona laws, saying they had a “discriminatory impact" on people of color. The laws stated that ballots cast in the wrong precinct would be discarded and that it was a crime for someone to collect and deliver another person's ballot. 

Emily Kirkland, executive director of Progress Arizona –  a nonprofit group that promotes progressive issues – said her organization successfully fought several bills proposed by the Republican-controlled state Legislature this year that would have made it difficult for new citizens and college students and retirees with multiple addresses to vote. 

“It’s just a huge range of different policies that are very intentionally designed to limit the electoral power specifically of communities of color, young people and students,” Kirkland said. “It’s really clear that Republicans in leadership in Arizona know that everyone participating is a danger to their positions of power.”

In Texas, state Democrats also point to shifting demographics – mainly burgeoning growth in and around urban centers like Houston and Dallas that tend to vote Democratic – for the push to turn Texas blue.Harris, Tarrant and Bexar counties – where Houston, Fort Worth and San Antonio are located, respectively – accounted for the biggest population growth in Texas over the past decade, adding a combined 1.2 million new residents, according to the state’s demographer office.

Much of that growth was fueled by people moving there from outside the county. The top three states sending people to Texas: Illinois, New York and California, all reliably blue states.In 2018, Democrats nearly pulled off their first statewide win in two decades when Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat and former presidential candidate, fell just 2.6 percentage points shy of upsetting incumbent Republican Sen. Ted Cruz for his seat. On the same ticket, Republicans lost two U.S. House seats and a dozen Texas House seats to Democrats, as well as a string of judicial posts and other local races.  

“Democrats are bullish about their future in Texas,” said Mark Jones, a political scientist at Rice University in Houston. “Therefore, they’re going to keep pushing.”Voter groups in Texas are also working to combat what they say are attempts to suppress votes. 

In addition to the removal of absentee ballot boxes, polling locations have abruptly vanished from college campuses; some counties set up fewer polling stations than mandated by the state; and there is a doctor’s note requirement for emergency ballots if a voter gets sick.

Staffers at MOVE Texas, a nonprofit youth voter registration group, spent the summer helping students register to vote – mostly via mail because of coronavirus restrictions – and making thousands of phone calls urging potential first-time voters to register.

Amid a global pandemic, when voters need more options not less, Texas voters are facing a mounting number of obstacles, said Drew Galloway, the group’s executive director. MOVE Texas has been named as plaintiffs in five lawsuits this year to try to reverse some of the initiatives – more than double the usual number.

“We’re going to be busy all the way through and after Nov. 3,” he said. “There’s a lot of stuff happening.”Follow Ellis and Jervis on Twitter: @NTerryEllis, @MrRJervis. Read more: Yahoo News »

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As Arizona, Texas and Georgia become less white, voter suppression could keep these states from turning blueLaTosha Brown, co-founder of Georgia-based Black Voters Matter, said Republicans are creating a 'culture of fear and confusion” among people of color who are most likely to vote Democratic. I see the FakeNewsMedia is in overdrive A friend of mine drove from Virginia Beach to Georgia so he could vote. He then waited in line for seven hours to get his vote in. He’s a patriot helping to save our Democracy that the Republicans are trying so hard to destroy. Why are you giving that idiot publicity?

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