Abbott Running Scared: Texas Incumbent Limited Voter Access to Polls Ahead of Midterms   

Elections & Politics Policy Brief #43 | By: Abigail Hunt | November 2, 2022

Header photo taken from: Shelby Tauber / The Texas Tribune




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Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke finds himself once again compelled to persuade voters that he still can win in a state that is at a crucial tipping point for Democrats after close electorial flips since 2016.

Photo taken from: Brandon Bell / Getty Images

For the disillusioned and jaded non-conservatives of the Lone Star state, seeing Beto O’Rourke within spitting distance of Greg Abbott in a dead heat for governor thrills our withered-but-still-beating Grinchy little hearts. From 1847 to 1979, with the exception of a few years here and there, Texas was Democratic. The most-beloved governors in our history are Democrats – Sam Houston, Ann Richards. I suspect there may be a greater number of Texans watching these election results with interest – we could make history this year. 

There are many events that can influence any election outcome, and this one is no exception. Reports are already rolling in of ballot tampering, voter intimidation, closed polling locations, and denied mail-in ballots. For the first time, I had to vote on an electronic machine that then printed a ballot sheet, on which my votes were printed. I then had to insert that page into a separate machine, a scanner, in order for my vote to be counted. It added a couple of extra steps to the process. This is just my anecdotal experience, but it is disconcerting. 

Adding steps that could further complicate things for those with language barriers, impairments, and disabilities who already have to deal with barriers to access. Another barrier to access for a majority youth voter population is the lack of voting options for college students. In an article from Alex Nguyen, the Texas Tribune reports limited access to voting locations for thousands of students at smaller universities across the state, stating that for some campuses the nearest polling site is several miles away. Student IDs are not considered acceptable forms of identification. Despite these barriers, voter turnout from 2014 to 2018 more than tripled for voters under 30, from 8 to 26 percent.

Alex Nguyen. College voters held back by Texas election law, lack of on-campus polling sites. October 28, 2022.

So who is our governor? Greg Abbott made a windfall from a devastating back injury that crippled him for life. After he achieved a political position of power, he supported legislation that made it harder for someone to get a settlement similar to his own. He made choices that furthered his own political interests but were detrimental to others. He has passed laws that outlaw abortion and prevents the teaching Critical Race Theory (CRT) in schools; Abbott is out for #1 – himself. Greg Abbott did nothing after children were massacred in Uvalde, just like the Texas police there stood by and did nothing, and every one of those individuals needs to, at minimum, lose their jobs. 

Abbott does not care about the danger to the average Texan – man, woman, or child. He let Texans freeze when the power went out, because he had power. His child attends private school. He has no familiarity to a relationship with pregnancy. If it does not personally affect him, he doesn’t care who it hurts or kills.

There are “dark money” groups influencing politics in the state – a Texas Tribune

An article by Patrick Svitek discusses two of these groups, No It Couldn’t LLC and Coulda Been Worse LLC. However, the monies contributed by these groups are in the tens of thousands, compared to the millions spent by the gubernatorial candidates themselves. 

More than the money, the creative productions by these groups are making an impact. The ad campaigns produced by the aforementioned groups, as well as those made by the PAC Mothers Against Greg Abbott, have elicited powerful responses across social media.

Mothers Against Greg Abbott. Greg Abbott Chose This

Mothers Against Greg Abbott. “Whose Choice?”

Patrick Svitek. Uvalde shooter footage in ad criticizing Abbott’s gun policies. October 27, 2022.

Beto O’Rourke is the people’s champion. People want Robin Hood more than the Sheriff of Nottingham, and Beto is definitely closer to Robin, enough to alienate many conservatives.

Anti-O’Rourke ads produced by Abbott’s campaign talk about Beto’s criminal record. A bit hypocritical since one of Texas’s most-successful former governors who went on to become President was a Republican with a criminal record – George W. Bush. Because the fact is that one-third of adult citizens have a criminal record in the U.S. People have an inflated sense of superiority for not having a criminal record.

DarkMoney final
Do business groups’ use of “dark money” for its political action committee follow state ethics rules? The powerful Texas Association of Business has been using “dark money” — which obscures the identity of political donors — for its political action committee. The group says the money’s used only for administrative expenses.

Photo taken from: Todd Wiseman / The Texas Tribune

Most of us have broken at least one minor law; much of the difference between someone with a criminal record and someone without is that only one of the two was caught and prosecuted. Our criminal justice system disproportionately affects the poor and people of color. Some of us have loved ones with a criminal record and//or have a criminal record ourselves – is it not representative of the people to have someone like themselves, including criminal history, in power? 

Robin Hood is the protagonist despite the fact that he robs people, because it is understood in the telling of the story that the rich people are lazy, indulgent, spoiled, and cruel, and that the workers who exert the effort and keep the country running are oppressed, abused, and deprived of even minor comforts. Robin Hood is balancing the scale we can all see is unevenly tipped. 

Abbott did not bring Texas to greatness, and neither did Rick Perry before him – the economic machine of Texas developed from dirt-poor settlements inhabited by industrious Mexicans and Southerners on whose backs an empire was built, many years before either of those men existed.

National Conference of State Legislatures Barriers to Work: People with Criminal Records: Improved Access to Licensed Occupations for Individuals With Criminal Records. July 17, 2018.

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Gov. Greg Abbott gave his SAPD officer niece shoutout on National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, later used in campaign ad.

Screenshot taken via: Twitter

In anticipation of the real threat of Texas flipping blue and cementing itself as a swing state, Greg Abbott is advertising for governor as he has never had to do before. A 2016 Twitter post wherein Abbott describes Clarissa Phalen, a police officer in Texas, as his “wife’s niece” is now infamous for the reference. The post celebrates Phalen becoming a law enforcement officer. Recently, Greg Abbott’s “wife’s niece” made a commercial at his behest to attempt to reconnect with the people – it is as cringe-y as it sounds. The Tío Greg commercial, paid for by the Abbott campaign, can be viewed here:

Greg Abbott Youtube. Tío Greg.

In the lead up to Election Day, the polls are flip-flopping way more than usual. For those of us hoping to make history and return to our roots with Beto, there is the slightest glimpse of light at the end of a tunnel. Here is to hoping that light is the return of the sun on the other side of a dark tunnel rather than impending end.

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