Because of the virus and increased reliance on absentee voting, the two biggest sprawling urban counties in Texas presumed to offer drive-by absentee dropoff boxes—11 in the Houston area and five in the Dallas area.
Greg Abbott, the Republican governor of Texas, issued an order under his virus-related emergency power declaring that counties could provide only one such dropoff point per county.
A Democratic federal judge nullified the governor’s order, saying he had overstepped his bounds in unilaterally restraining counties from serving voters.
Three Donald Trump-nominated judges on the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals then overturned the federal district judge, saying the governor’s restriction in no way impaired voting rights.
Based on that, I ask two questions:
- You have your urban areas of Democratic strength wanting to make voting easier. You have the Republican governor of a red state wanting to remove that ease. You have that Republican governor getting overturned by a Democratic-nominated judge, then upheld by three Trump-nominated appellate judges.
Is any element of that narrative not utterly predictable on a basis that seems wholly political rather than legal?
- Is it not crystal clear, no matter your view on tax cuts or abortion or health care, that, for whatever reason, Democrats want to make voting a greater convenience and Republicans want to make it an equestrian show-jumping course mostly traveled successfully by voters able to complete all the leaps?
I’m not using for today’s purpose any incendiary phrasing such as “voter suppression.” I’m merely asking readers to consider the plain truth they’re shown—which is that Republicans want to make it harder for them to vote and Democrats want to make it easier.
That seems to have been the case in Pulaski County, where Democratic County Clerk Terri Hollingsworth told me she was working on setting up only one drive-by absentee dropoff checkpoint, with voter ID presentation to county clerk officials, because Republicans would object to more than that.
She is pleased to say that at least a single drive-by location will be opened beginning Oct. 19 beside the courthouse on the otherwise closed block of Second Street between Spring and Broadway.
They tell me from state Republican headquarters that Hollingsworth must have telepathic skill because she never asked them about that.
So, I asked them about that, and I got back a statement from the chairman, Doyle Webb, declaring as follows: “We are currently in the middle of an election … . Changing the rules in the middle of an election is against the law. Arkansas has laws on the books pertaining to designated bearers, and unattended boxes are not provided in the law.”
It was a fine answer, much appreciated, except that it didn’t pertain to what I’d asked.
I’d wanted to know about the attended station, which is to say officially manned, for ID presentation, which Hollingsworth began offering for walk-up last week and intends to parlay into drive-by next week. I wanted to know if and why Republicans objected to more than one of those.
Does the technology that has converted newspaper newsrooms to virtual functioning, and which allows me to sit in my home in Little Rock and activate warehouses across the country to put items I want on a truck path to my front porch, permit the county clerk’s office to do its job through officials spread among remote locations closer to the people?
For that matter, we’re in a health emergency in which the Arkansas governor, a Republican, has taken emergency powers and issued an emergency order liberalizing absentee voting law. So why not ease the dropoff restrictions a bit as well, by the same authority and public need?
The experience of asking one question and getting back a prompt and forceful answer to a different one gave me flashbacks to the Kamala Harris-Mike Pence-fly debate.
None of that really matters, though, to the central point: Regardless of questions answered or unanswered, the fact is evident that Republicans want harder voting and Democrats wanting easier voting, which causes me to ask … well, you, since you’re the one who counts: Why do you think that is?
Does it matter to you that Republicans don’t want you to be able to drop off your absentee ballot close to your home, and that Democrats would be fine if you were able to do that—with official personnel manning the drops and requiring ID proof?
Let’s stipulate that the dropoff points should be officially manned for ID checks that way, to try to narrow the argument.
If we simply could agree on the merit of voter convenience, then we could work on the security issues at satellite stations.
But that would require that everyone act in good faith and accept the virtue of voter convenience.
And think beyond the “R” and the “D.”
John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at email@example.com. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.