The Republican party’s antipathy to the full exercise of every American citizen’s right to participate in our democracy has long been documented with suppression efforts ramping up since the Supreme Court invalidated the Voting Rights Act back in 2013.
Since that fateful decision, voter suppression efforts have taken many forms, from the purging of voter rolls — a significant factor in the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election — to the elimination of polling places in historically Democratic districts to attempts to intimidate voters with threats of violence that have already been taking place in this current election to even a slow down of the U.S. Postal Service delivery to prevent ballots from arriving on time to be filled out or counted.
No attempt to disenfranchise voters who have already cast their ballots legally has been more blatant than the actions of the Texas Republicans who took their case trying to invalidate nearly 127,000 ballots — cast at drive-thru polling sites set up in order to make voting safe during the COVID-19 pandemic in the relatively blue bastion of Harris County which includes the city of Houston — to the Texas Supreme Court.
The GOP activists tried to argue that the drive-thru program was an expansion of curbside voting, and under state election law should only be available for voters with disabilities, despite the fact that drive-thru ballots account for about 10% of all in-person ballots cast during early voting in Harris County.
The rejection of these ballots could determine the outcome of an election in Texas that has turned much more competitive than any Republican could have imagined before Donald Trump’s disastrous handling of the coronavirus pandemic sent normally reliable GOP voters scrambling for an alternative and motivated Democratic-leaning voters to rejoin a political process they may have skipped in the last presidential election.
Any hopes that these anti-democracy forces in the GOP had having the Texas Supreme Court assist them in stealing the rights to have the drive-thru voters’ voices heard in this election were dashed today when the court denied their petition to have the ballots disallowed in a decision issued without a written opinion.
Local election officials in Harris County rejoiced at the news.
“We know that the law is on our side,” Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins told CNN after the Supreme Court issued its ruling. “We know that we should be protecting these votes, making sure that all of our residents here can have their voice heard, can have their say in our democracy.”
The citizens who have already submitted their ballots assuming that they were making valid votes are still not assured that their votes will be counted, however.
The Republican plaintiffs are still pursuing a similar lawsuit in federal court, hoping to get the votes thrown out by arguing that drive-thru voting violates the U.S. constitution.
It will be interesting to see how the originalists on the Supreme Court, including the recently installed Amy Coney Barrett, tackle this issue that was likely never contemplated in the horse and buggy days of our nation’s founding fathers.
Suffice it to say that any attempt to invalidate the ballots of legitimate voters — no matter how they cast their votes — simply demonstrates the fact that, despite their attempts at portraying themselves as the party of the educationally-challenged blue-collar class, the GOP is a party of elitists who are afraid to face true democracy and can only retain power for their oligarchical masters by cheating in any manner that they can and invalidating legitimate votes.
Let’s hope that they find no more success in the federal courts than they did in the Texas judicial system.
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Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.