As Arizona, Texas and Georgia become less white, voter suppression could keep these states from turning blue
As the White House race between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden intensifies, electoral activists in Texas, Georgia and Arizona battle alleged Republicans' tactics of suppressing black and Latino voters.
A growing liberal base, rapidly growing black and Latin American populations, and more aggressive voting efforts by the Democrats have turned these traditionally red states, which Trump won in 2016, into potential battlefields.
Biden's campaign recently announced it would spend $ 6.2 million on television advertising in Texas in the final weeks of the presidential campaign. And Jill Biden, Joe Biden's wife, will visit the cities of El Paso, Houston and Dallas on Tuesday when the first Texas voting begins. She will be running Get Out The Vote rallies in every city.
A Democrat hasn't promoted Texas in a presidential election since 1976. Georgia since 1992; and Arizona since 1996.
According to a RealClearPolitics poll average, Biden leads Trump in Arizona by 2.7 points. Trump led Biden with 0.4 points for a poll average in Georgia. And Trump rose 4.4 points in Texas - a small lead by Texas standards.
President Donald Trump's supporters remain committed, despite former Vice President Joe Biden leading the way in several polls.
Democrats in all three states have complained of years of efforts by Republican leaders to restrict electoral access by introducing tough voter identification laws, removing voters from the list, passing "exact match" voting laws, closing polling stations, and long waits for the majority Districts allowed black. This tactic is disproportionately targeted at black and Latin American voters, who tend to vote democratically and who are hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, which killed nearly 215,000 Americans, say experts and supporters of voting rights.
Most recently, the Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered that all districts designate only one delivery point for postal votes. Democrats blew the amendment to suppress votes in tight elections.
On Friday, a federal judge blocked Abbott's order, saying it put a strain on the voting rights of elderly and disabled Texans, who are most likely to vote using postal ballot papers. An appeal was quickly filed, however, and the U.S. 5th Court of Appeals issued a stay, putting the judge's decision on hold.
An individual submits absentee voting requests in a mailbox in Omaha, Neb., Ab on August 18, 2020. U.S. Postal Service warnings that mailed ballot papers cannot be guaranteed to arrive on time have drawn the limelight due to the tight timeframes in which most states can request and return these ballots.
Trump has also promised to use volunteer campaigners to monitor election day elections - 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 democratically.
"All of their actions are related to restricting people at a time when they need as much access as possible because of the (pandemic) conditions," Brown said. "They had to resort to the only way to stay in power and that is to cheat. They just don't have the numbers, they just don't have the support."
But Republican supporters say it doesn't.
Allen West, chairman of the Texas GOP, said Republicans were trying to ensure fair elections and reduce potential irregularities.
"We have to make sure we have electoral integrity," West said. "We have to make sure that we are in control of this process."
State lawmakers have had the power to impose new voting restrictions since 2013, when the US Supreme Court gutted part of the electoral law that requires certain states and cities to obtain federal approval before changing electoral law or practice.
After the court crushed law targeting states with a history of voter discrimination, Texas closed 750 polling stations, Arizona lost 320 and Georgia closed 214, according to a report released by the Leadership Conference Education Fund last year . Voting advocates argued that the court's decision made it easier for electoral officials to deprive black and Latin American voters.
Election officials in Georgia came under fire earlier this year over problems at polling stations during the June 9 primaries.
Some voters waited up to seven hours to cast ballots in black and brown communities, while others were turned away without being sure their tentative ballots would be counted. Voters also reported problems with poll workers unable to operate voting machines.
Voters wait in line to vote at the Pittman Park Recreation Center in Atlanta on November 6, 2018. Some voters waited 3-4 hours as there were only three voting machines at the polling site.
Similar issues arose in the state's gubernatorial elections in November 2018. However, the Democrats were still making profits. Stacy Abrams won the most votes of any democratic candidate in Georgian history in 2018. She lost the hard-fought election against Republican Governor Brian Kemp by 1.39 percentage points.
That same year, the Democrats moved 14 seats in the Atlanta area State House.
On Monday, the first day of Georgia’s early voting for the November 3rd presidential election, voters complained of long lines at polling stations in Metro Atlanta and waited six hours for the vote. Election officials reported a technical defect with voter check-in computers, which led to delays at a polling station.
Brown said the electoral repression tactic is motivating black and brown people across the country to fight the opposition through voting. So far this year, more than 5.6 million people have voted at the start of the presidential election. This corresponds to an increase of around 75,000 more people compared to the turnout at this point in time in the 2016 elections, according to the US election project.
"People are very, very focused and determined," said Brown.
Democrats point to favorable demographic changes in these states as reasons to hope for victories in Arizona, Texas, and Georgia:
In Arizona, the Latino proportion of the state population increased 12.8% between 1990 and 2018, while the white proportion of the population decreased by 17.3% over the same period, according to a January report by Arizona State University economists.
From 2010 to 2018, nearly 54% of the population growth in Texas was from the Latino population, compared with only 13.6% from non-Hispanic whites, according to the Texas State Demographics Bureau.
According to a report by the Pew Research Center last month, Georgia lost 10% of its white voters between 2010 and 2018 while gaining 5% more black voters over the same period.
Andra Gillespie, a political scientist at Emory University in Atlanta, said Georgia could potentially turn blue this year due to these demographic changes - especially an ever-growing black population in Metro Atlanta - and stronger organization by Democrats.
"I think it is legitimate to see Georgia as a competitive state," said Gillespie. "Look at the margins that Republicans used to win." These margins have decreased over time. "
Arizona is also experiencing a demographic shift with its growing Latino population. Organizers say they have worked aggressively to register more Latinos for the vote this year.
Arizona is also trying to register and educate Native American voters who live on concerns that could potentially affect the election. A June 2020 report by the Native American Rights Fund found that many Native Americans are disenfranchised because they do not have a formal address to receive mail on their reservation and live far from post offices.
Earlier this year, the US 9th Appeals Court overturned two laws in Arizona, saying they had "discriminatory effects" on people of color. The law said that ballot papers cast in the wrong district would be discarded and that it was a crime for someone to collect and cast another person's ballot.
Emily Kirkland, executive director of Progress Arizona - a nonprofit advocating progressive issues - said her organization had successfully fought against several bills proposed by Republican-controlled state law this year that would allow new citizens to Students and retirees would have found it difficult to vote with multiple addresses.
"It's just a wide range of different policies that are very deliberately designed to limit the voting power specifically of color communities, young people and students," Kirkland said. "It's really clear that Republicans in the Arizona leadership know that anyone taking part is a threat to their positions of power."
In Texas, state Democrats are also pointing out that demographics - mostly burgeoning growth in and around urban centers like Houston and Dallas, who tend to vote democratically - are changing to make Texas blue.
Harris, Tarrant, and Bexar counties, which are home to Houston, Fort Worth, and San Antonio, saw the largest population growth in Texas in the past decade, adding a total of 1.2 million new residents, according to the state demographics bureau.
Much of that growth was driven by people moving there from outside the county. The three largest states that send people to Texas: Illinois, New York, and California, all reliably blue states.
In 2018, the Democrats nearly won their first statewide victory in two decades, when Beto O'Rourke, a Democrat and former presidential candidate, fell just 2.6 percentage points to anger incumbent Republican Senator Ted Cruz for his seat. On the same ticket, Republicans lost two seats in the US House of Representatives and a dozen seats in the Texas House of Representatives to Democrats, as well as a number of judicial posts and other local races.
"Democrats are optimistic about their future in Texas," said Mark Jones, a political scientist at Rice University in Houston. "That's why they'll keep pushing."
Voters wait in line to cast their ballots at a polling station at the Tempe History Museum in Arizona. November 6, 2018.
Voting groups in Texas are also working to combat alleged attempts to suppress votes.
In addition to removing ballot boxes, polling stations have suddenly disappeared from colleges. Some counties had fewer polling stations than the state required. and there is a medical grade for emergency votes if a voter falls ill.
Employees at MOVE Texas, a nonprofit youth vote registration group, spent the summer helping students register - mostly via email due to coronavirus restrictions - and making thousands of phone calls to urge potential first-time voters to register .
Amid a global pandemic, Texas voters face a growing number of obstacles when voters need more, not fewer, options, said Drew Galloway, executive director of the group. MOVE Texas was named plaintiff in five lawsuits this year trying to reverse some of the initiatives - more than twice as many as usual.
"We'll be busy all the way through and after November 3rd," he said. "A lot is happening."
Follow Ellis and Jervis on Twitter: @NTerryEllis, @MrRJervis.
This article originally appeared in the US TODAY: 2020 Voting: Will Biden Win in Arizona, Texas and Georgia?
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