Why is it so hard to grasp such a simple concept — that our elected and appointed leaders should create a voting system that encourages greater participation by making the process far less onerous?
But really, we know the answer far too well — that those largely in power fear the results should more citizens cast a ballot and have determined that making it more difficult to vote is in their best interest.
Take for instance the latest proof of this truism — House Bill 4048, sponsored by state Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth. The bill, if passed, would prohibit counties with more than 400,000 residents from allowing “voting centers” during election days. Voting centers are a novel concept in which registered voters would be able to cast ballots at any county polling location regardless of precinct.
For instance, if a county allowed voting centers, you would be able to vote at the polling location closest to your job rather than driving miles away to the precinct location you are registered to closest to your home. Logic dictates that if it were easier to vote over your lunch break, you would be more likely to cast a ballot.
And truthfully, this sounds like a great idea. Why on earth would anyone be opposed to allowing voting centers in every county in Texas? And why is this bill targeting only counties with 400,000 residents or more? That sounds rather arbitrary, right?
Texas has 13 counties with a population greater than 400,000 — including Denton County, at roughly 781,000 and growing. If you look at the results from the 2018 midterm elections, all but three of these counties voted for Beto O’Rourke, the Democrat, in the U.S. Senate race; all but six voted for Lupe Valdez, the Democrat, in the governor’s race. The greatest total number of votes for these two candidates came from these 13 counties, home to the state’s largest metropolitan areas and their suburbs.
So this bill, HB 4048, is not intended to improve or safeguard the voting process. It is intended to make it more difficult for registered voters to cast a ballot for Democratic candidates.
We applaud the Denton County commissioners who had the foresight to vote 4-0 Tuesday, with one abstention, to officially oppose the proposed legislation. That all four are registered Republicans should not be lost in this vote — they know that voting centers carry bipartisan support in the county as a means toward making the election process easier for all of Denton County’s 496,564 registered voters.
But why would one of the commissioners abstain from casting a vote to oppose this obviously repressive bill? Republican Dianne Edmondson said she didn’t vote partly because of “personal loyalty” to the bill’s author, who like Edmondson was once a county Republican Party chairwoman. She also does not support making it easier for county residents — to whom she should owe her greatest loyalty — to cast a ballot by allowing election-day voting centers.
Among her reasons for opposing voting centers, Edmondson said they could bring in longer lines, which might deter voters from trying to vote.
We could only be so lucky!
Might we remind Commissioner Edmondson that Texas historically has posted one of the worst turnout rates in the nation — ranking 41st last year when we saw an almost respectable turnout of 46.3% and second to last in the previous midterm elections of 2016, when only 28.3% turned out. Outside of a presidential election or a few polling places last November, you are just as likely to find a Chupacabra outside your polling place as you are a line.
Edmondson further opposes making it easier for citizens to register to vote, questioning the legitimacy of such efforts as same-day voter registration, in which citizens register and cast ballots on the same day. But in states that allow same-day registrations, officials allow those newly registered voters to cast provisional ballots until they are verified.
“That would certainly increase voter participation, but is that a wise thing to do?” Edmondson said Tuesday, later indicating “there are other factors that enter into massive voter participation.”
But what might those factors be?
The most commonly given retort is the fear of voter fraud, but the number of verifiable instances of voter fraud is so small as to be largely nonexistent. Edmondson’s camp of officials would have us disenfranchise the many in pursuit of the minuscule.
Or perhaps Edmondson, in her prior position as party chairwoman, was given privy to the same voter data that compelled her compatriot Klick to file HB 4048? Does she fear the results should more citizens cast a vote?
The power of the vote is the foundational principle of our democratic republic. It only makes sense then that we craft an election system that maximizes legal participation. Toward that pursuit, we encourage all our elected leaders to institute voting centers throughout Texas, Denton County included, and to remove any onerous roadblocks that restrict not only the act of casting a legal ballot but also registering for that right.
It really is a simple concept to grasp.