To paraphrase the late urban poet extraordinaire Christopher Wallace (aka Biggie Smalls, aka Big Poppa, aka the Notorious B.I.G.), the mantra of Texas Republicans seems to be “Mo’ votes, mo’ problems.” Why? On the heals of record voter turnout during the Nov. 2020 presidential election, an election held amid a global pandemic, Texas GOP lawmakers who profess to be defenders of democracy, have undemocratically produced at a record-breaking pace laws intent on suppressing Black and Latinx votes; the two groups responsible for the 2020 massive uptick in ballots cast.
The latest iteration of this attempt to silence or at least severely limit the voting numbers of these groups, according to state Democratic lawmakers, was news that the State of Texas will only provide a limited number of voter registration applications to the public.
To combat this, the Texas Democratic Party (TDP) is launching the “Let the People Register” program, an initiative that seeks to print half a million voter registration cards and distribute them to communities across the state.
“The TDP, along with the League of Women Voters and so many other clubs and organizations across the state, have really stepped up their efforts to make sure people not only understand what’s at stake, but given the situation and what we’ve all seen transpire, I think people are aware how important it is to get engaged and registered to vote, but we want to also make sure that they have access to the tools they need to make that happen,” said TDP Senior Communications Director, Angelica Luna Kaufman.
What Texans have “seen transpire,” according to Kaufman, is blatant voter suppression.
“There has been a movement driven by the Republican Party, especially the extremism side of the Republican Party, which is all part of the ‘Big Lie’ that has been spread since the 2020 election, by Trump. As a result, last summer Texas passed one of the most restrictive voting laws in the country, aimed at silencing the voices of communities of color and making it harder for people to get out and vote.”
“Advocates across the state have been saying it for years: Texas is ground zero for voter suppression – and this year, we’ve got our work cut out for us,” said Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa. “The most powerful way to fight voter suppression is to give every eligible citizen the opportunity to use their voice at the ballot box. The Texas Democratic Party is committed to registering several hundreds of thousands of voters in 2022, regardless of who or what stands in our way. So, if our Republican government refuses to, once again, simply do their jobs and help eligible Texans register to vote – we’ll do it for them.”
This move to protect Texas Black and Brown communities’ ability to register to vote has national implications, because Texas, not New York, Illinois, Georgia or California, has the largest Black population in America according to the 2020 U.S. Census.
Carroll Robinson, a professor in TSU’s Barbara Jordan/Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs, says there are a number of multiracial organizations lending their energy and resources to the “Let the People Register” program including the Texas Organizing Project, Black Voters Matter, The Collective and the Texas Coalition of Black Democrats which Robinson chairs.
“Since 2020 to earlier this year, about a million and a half new voters have been registered across the state. And because of that increased voter registration in 2020, 1.3 million Black voters voted in the state of Texas in that general election. That’s more Black Democratic votes in Texas than had occurred in 2008 when then Senator Obama ran for president of the United States for the first time,” added Robinson.
The announcement by Texas’ secretary of state that there was a voter registration application shortage merely reinvigorated the TDP and others, according to Kaufman.
“We’re going to print and release the first 150,000 registration cards the week after the primaries during a day of action. Unfortunately, we are living at a time when our state is a Republican-dominated state. We saw just from the rally Trump had here recently how the extremism has taken over our state. So, we are doing our part to make sure people are able to vote and they continue to have the kind of representation they need so we can protect our state. We’re fighting for the soul of our state here in Texas.”