Since 2012, Texas had closed 750 polling places statewide in predominantly black and Latino areas, the Leadership Conference Education Fund, a civil rights group, reported.
“Closing polling places has a cascading effect, leading to long lines at other polling places, transportation hurdles, denial of language assistance and other forms of in-person help, and mass confusion about where eligible voters may cast their ballot. For many people, and particularly for voters of color, older voters, rural voters, and voters with disabilities, these burdens make it harder — and sometimes impossible — to vote,” the Leadership Conference Education Fund report said.
Texas has long been considered to be a Republican state, but changing racial demographics this past decade has created a shift in votes. Many leading Democrats now consider the state a potential swing state.
According to the Guardian, ongoing research by the University of Houston political scientists Jeronimo Cortina and Brandon Rottinghaus indicates that people are less likely to vote if they have to travel farther to do so, and the effect is disproportionately greater for some groups of voters, such as Latinxs.
In 2012 there was typically one polling place for every 4,000 residents but by 2018 that dropped to one polling place every 7,700 residents. Some counties even closed enough polling places to violate Texas state law.
The Guardian states: The report confirms what many activists have suspected: the places where the black and Latinx population is growing by the largest numbers have experienced the vast majority of the state’s poll site closures.
“Though the poll closures are not linked to any specific policy, most came after the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013, allowing states with a history of voter suppression to make election changes without approval from the federal government. Many Southern states rushed to shut down nearly 1,700 polling places as soon as they were free from federal restrictions. Many of the closures also came as Texas pushed to replace polling places with ‘vote centers,’ which allow voters to cast their ballot at any location in the county rather than their assigned polling location.” says Truthout.
These new “vote centers” turned voting day into a nightmare as many residents did not have a polling location to go to.