In 2020, nearly seven in 10 American voters cast their ballot before Election Day.

Later in this midterm election year, voters in 19 states will head to the polls with new, more restrictive voting laws on the books. One of those states is Texas, where the party primaries are just a few weeks away. Some voters and election workers say one provision in the new law in the Lone Star State is already causing confusion. Geoff Bennett reports.

 

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Later in this midterm election year, voters in 19 states will head to the polls with new more restrictive voting laws on the books.

    One of those states is Texas, where the party primaries are just a few weeks away. Some voters and election workers say one provision in the new law in the Lone Star State is already causing confusion.

    Geoff Bennett has our report.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    In Texas, election workers are reporting that hundreds of applications for mail-in ballots are being rejected, one of the early effects of the state’s new Republican-backed voting law.

    It requires that voters provide either a partial Social Security number or a driver’s license number on their ballot application. And that number has to match what’s on their original voter registration. The problem is, most people don’t remember what form of I.D. they initially provided, especially older voters who registered decades ago.

    And that’s not the only thing causing confusion, says Jessica Huseman, editorial director of Votebeat.

  • Jessica Huseman, Editorial Director, Votebeat:

    People aren’t used to filling out the new forms, and they fill them out incorrectly.

    And then there was also a problem where the voter roll in Texas is missing some information from voters. So, if they write down the incorrect number that is missing by accident or because they don’t know which one is in the system or that one is missing, then their registration will be automatically rejected.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    A problem, she says, which could have been prevented.

  • Jessica Huseman:

    We pointed this problem out initially in July of last year, which was well before this law passed. And so there was an opportunity for Texas lawmakers to address the issue.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    James Slattery, with the Texas Civil Rights Project, warned members of the Texas House in testimony last summer.

  • James Slattery, Texas Civil Rights Project:

    It is easy to see the needless chaos and mass disenfranchisement that requiring this matching process will create.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    Slattery sees it as another barrier to the ballot.

  • James Slattery:

    Texas is already the hardest state to vote in, in the entire country, and this just turbocharges how hard it will be.

    These new vote-by-mail requirements, though, will particularly impact certain groups of Texans, because only certain groups of Texans right now even have the right to vote by mail. So, in particular, people who are 65 and older have the right to vote by mail in Texas, and use it in large numbers.

    So do people who are disabled, and so are people who are temporarily away from home during the voting period.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    Is this voter suppression by design, or is this just benign negligence on the part of lawmakers, who failed to heed warnings from folks like yourself?

  • James Slattery:

    It’s hard not to see this as a feature, rather than a bug.

    There is, I think, an element of bureaucratic malpractice here too, just because the state’s election infrastructure is so underfunded already, that, when you put a new 76-page bill on top of it, it’s going to be bad regardless.

  • Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX):

    Election integrity is now law.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • Geoff Bennett:

    In September, Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott signed a slew of voting restrictions into law, one of many efforts in Republican-controlled states to enact new limits, after former President Donald Trump pushed the debunked myth of voter fraud in the 2020 election.

    The U.S. Justice Department has since sued Texas over the law, arguing that it disenfranchises voters. Texas Republican lawmakers say the voting law, known as S.B.1, is aimed at increasing public trust in state elections.

  • State Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-TX):

    Senate Bill 1 makes it easy to vote and hard to cheat.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    We tried to speak with Texas state Senator Bryan Hughes and state Rep. Andrew Murr, who wrote the legislation, but both Republicans denied our interview requests.

    It’s not just voters who are frustrated by this new process. It’s also election workers who are frustrated that they can’t help voters fix their applications, because the law now prohibits them from doing so.

  • Jessica Huseman:

    Absolutely. And I think we have seen that pretty open annoyance by the local clerks office with the Texas Secretary of State’s Office over this issue.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    Dana DeBeauvoir is the Travis County Clerk. She’s served in county government for 40 years.

  • Dana Debeauvoir, Travis County, Texas, Clerk:

    In so many ways, we can’t even practice free speech with voters. You can’t call them back to cure a problem with their application or their ballot, because that’s seen as promoting by-mail voting, when all we really want to do is figure out what their new correct identification number should be.

    Just to be passively helpful with voters, we shouldn’t be so hamstrung in that sense.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    A violation carries a mandatory minimum of six months imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000.

  • Dana Debeauvoir:

    This is voter suppression. So, I’m very concerned about our democracy. I’m concerned about why the legislature wanted to stop all voters, including their own Republican voters, from voting by mail.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    Across the state, from Houston to San Antonio to Austin, the law has caused a spike in rejections in mail ballot applications.

    Travis County, home to Austin, normally rejects 1 percent to 2 percent of ballot applications. Currently, officials say it’s about 6 percent to 7 percent. In Harris County, which includes Houston, about a third of rejected applications were tossed because of I.D. problems.

  • MAN:

    I have never missed a vote.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    That includes this 95-year-old World War II veteran, who says his mail-in ballot application has been denied twice due to new requirements.

  • Dana Debeauvoir:

    There’s just no point in taking a fully qualified, eligible voter and rejecting them. Or maybe we really do know what the point is, and that is to suppress them.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    What should voters do in the meantime?

  • Dana Debeauvoir:

    Well, you have asked a very good question, because I can’t tell voters directly what to do to cure their by-mail ballot, because that is seen as promoting by-mail voting, and I am in danger of a state jail felony.

    Now, what other people, friends, the media, everybody else can and is saying, the cure for that kind of a problem is to include both numbers on the application, the last four digits of your Social Security number and your driver’s license number. You heard that from everybody except me, the election official.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    She’s urging those affected by the new mail ballot application process to not let it stop them from voting.

    For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Geoff Bennett.

Mitch McConnell Comments Comparing ‘African Americans’ and ‘Americans’ Spark Outrage

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has sparked a fierce backlash for a comment where he distinguished between African American voters and Americans.

McConnell made the remark at a news conference on Wednesday, before two Democrat senators refused to join their own party in changing Senate rules to overcome a Republican filibuster that was preventing the passing of voting rights legislation.

During the debate, McConnell had accused Democrats of “fake hysteria” over the Senate filibuster in order to pass the legislation.

The Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would have expanded voting access, made Election Day a national holiday, ensured access to early voting and mail-in ballots, and more.

At the news conference, reporter Pablo Manríquez asked McConnell what his message was for voters of color who are concerned about their voting rights ahead of November’s midterm elections.

“Well, the concern is misplaced,” McConnell replied. “Because if you look at the statistics, African American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans.”

He continued: “A recent survey, 94 percent of Americans thought it was easy to vote. This is not a problem. Turnout is up, biggest turnout since 1900… they’re being sold a bill of goods to support a Democratic effort to federalize elections… this has been a Democratic Party goal for decades.”

A short video clip of McConnell’s comment quickly went viral on social media, with some declaring the senator had said “the quiet part out loud” by distinguishing African American voters from Americans.

“That’s the moment @LeaderMcConnell said out loud what his actions have made clear for years: that he doesn’t consider African Americans to be Americans,” tweeted podcaster Kristen Meinzer.

“The dogwhistle just became a foghorn,” progressive commentator Brian Tyler Cohen wrote.

Bishop Talbert Swan tweeted: “I wonder what’s the difference he sees between ‘African-American voters’ and ‘Americans.’ Can’t qwhite put my finger on it.”

Daryl Lamont Jenkins, the executive director of the One People’s Project, an anti-fascist organization, shared Swan’s tweet, adding: “Good work, McConnell! Here I have been for the past few days saying that when conservatives say Americans they just mean conservatives, and you went “Hold my beer” on me!”

Several people also insisted the remarks weren’t a case of McConnell misspeaking, but an indication of his true feelings.

“I need you to understand that this is who Mitch McConnell is,” tweeted Charles Booker, a former Kentucky state representative running for the Senate.

Booker, who is Black, added: “Being Black doesn’t make you less of an American, no matter what this craven man thinks.”

Bryan Behar wrote: “McConnell did not misspeak. In one quote, he summarized the entire GOP worldview. They think it’s a White nation and anyone who isn’t White isn’t a true American.”

Democrat strategist Max Burns echoed that sentiment, writing in a tweet: “Well, if McConnell’s true feelings didn’t just escape his lips on live television.”

McConnell’s office has been contacted for comment.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks during a press conference following the weekly Senate Republican policy luncheon in the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill on January 19, 2022 in Washington, DC.ANNA MONEYMAKER/GETTY IMAGES

What are your thoughts on Florida governor Ron DeSantis signing a bill requiring Florida students and professors to register their political views with the state?

What will undoubtedly happen now is that Florida will lose billions of dollars as students will go to other states to attend college and businesses and research companies will locate elsewhere. Isn’t that fun? Equally amusing: cruise lines cannot ask whether someone is vaccinated before boarding, but schools can ask students what political party they support. Dystopia squared.

To conclude: when you’re punishing educational institutions for failing to produce drones that dutifully parrot your bankrupt ideology, what you are is a Nazi. Your mom must be so proud you went to Harvard and Yale. Ron DeSantis – Wikipedia

I see a lot of Florida college students and/or educators lawsuits coming to sue DeSantis for violating their privacy. Since it’s entirely unconstitutional…

That momement when he realizes he put a Jim Crowe era slogan in the bill claiming isn’t voter-suppression

Rep. Anchía Questions Author of Texas Voter Suppression Bill