Skip to content

Latest Stories

Top Stories

Texas joins election rule mainstream one way: Early voting

Texas early voting

Gov. Greg Abbott has added six days to the calendar for voting in person before Nov. 3.

Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Texans have not gotten any relief from some of the strictest vote-by-mail limits in the country, but now they will have the ability to cast ballots in person for almost three weeks ahead of the election.

Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday cited the complications of the coronavirus pandemic, which has surged in his state this month, in adding six days to the state's period for early voting.

The decision by the GOP governor was not a big surprise, because he'd lengthened early voting for this month's primary runoff and signaled he would do so for the fall. Nonetheless, it stands out because Republicans in charge in Austin have fought so many efforts by voting rights groups to broaden enfranchisement — and anything that could boost turnout is likely to benefit Democrats.

Starting Oct. 13 and ending the Friday before Election Day, there will now be 19 days to go to at least one place in all 254 counties to vote ahead of time, potentially permitting people not permitted to vote by mail — because they're younger than 65 and have no obvious illness or travel reason — to avoid long lines on Nov. 3.

The governor's proclamation also changes the state's status quo and allows absentee voters to avoid the vagaries of the Postal Service drop off their mail-in ballot to the early voting clerk's office prior to Election Day.

Sign up for The Fulcrum newsletter

Texas has among the most restrictive mail-in voting rules of any state and last month the Supreme Court decided not to intervene in a Democratic Party lawsuit to expand voting by mail to all voters in the primary runoff. The party is pressing its efforts in lower federal courts in hopes of reversing the current state of play ahead of the general election.

Thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia allow for in-person early voting but the number of days varies widely. Minnesotans are allowed to go to the polls 46 ahead of time, while a handful of states permit that for less than a week. At 19 days, the new Texas timetable is right at the national average, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

"By extending the early voting period and expanding the period in which mail-in ballots can be hand-delivered, Texans will have greater flexibility to cast their ballots, while at the same time protecting themselves and others from the coronavirus," Abbot said in a statement.

Abbott's decision "is exactly like his Covid-19 response: the bare minimum and not fully thought through," countered state Democratic Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa.

The state has the second-most electoral votes, 38, and five polls in the past month suggest former Vice President Joe Biden is essentially tied with President Trump, who won Texas last time by 9 points. No Democrat has carried the state since Jimmy Carter in 1976, but the rise of Latinos and white-collar suburbanites is pushing Texas from deep red toward an inevitable purple if not blue.

In addition to the presidential race, M.J. Hegar has a longshot chance at unseating GOP Sen. John Cornyn, a handful of suburban congressional seats held by the GOP are highly competitive and the Democrats even have a viable opportunity to win control of the state House

In another voting-related development in Texas, a new lawsuit was filed Friday challenging the state's vote-by-mail system, arguing it discriminates against people with disabilities.

The federal lawsuit points to Texas counties that currently offer electronic ballots for people in the military and overseas, arguing that the state already has the ability to offer more accessible ballots to persons with disabilities.

Read More

Blurred image of an orchestra
Melpomenem/Getty Images

The ideal democracy: An orchestra in harmony

Frazier is an assistant professor at the Crump College of Law at St. Thomas University. Starting this summer, he will serve as a Tarbell fellow.

In the symphony of our democracy, we can find a compelling analogy with an orchestra. The interplay of musicians trained in different instruments, each contributing to the grand musical tapestry, offers lessons for our democratic system. As we navigate the complexities of governance, let us draw inspiration from the orchestra's structure, dynamics and philosophy.

Keep ReadingShow less
David French

New York Times columnist David French was removed from the agenda of a faith-basd gathering because we was too "divisive."

Macmillan Publishers

Is canceling David French good for civic life?

Harwood is president and founder of The Harwood Institute. This is the latest entry in his series based on the "Enough. Time to Build.” campaign, which calls on community leaders and active citizens to step forward and build together.

On June 10-14, the Presbyterian Church in America held its annual denominational assembly in Richmond, Va. The PCA created considerable national buzz in the lead-up when it abruptly canceled a panel discussion featuring David French, the highly regarded author and New York Times columnist.

The panel carried the innocuous-sounding title, “How to Be Supportive of Your Pastor and Church Leaders in a Polarized Political Year.” The reason for canceling it? French, himself a long-time PCA member, was deemed too “divisive.” This despite being a well-known, self-identified “conservative” and PCA adherent. Ironically, the loudest and most divisive voices won the day.

Keep ReadingShow less
Fannie Lou Hamer

Fannie Lou Hamer testifies at the Democratic National Convention in 1964.

Bettmann/Getty Images

60 years later, it's time to restart the Freedom Summer

Johnson is a United Methodist pastor, the author of "Holding Up Your Corner: Talking About Race in Your Community" and program director for the Bridge Alliance, which houses The Fulcrum.

Sixty years have passed since Freedom Summer, that pivotal season of 1964 when hundreds of young activists descended upon an unforgiving landscape, driven by a fierce determination to shatter the chains of racial oppression. As our nation teeters on the precipice of another transformative moment, the echoes of that fateful summer reverberate across the years, reminding us that freedom remains an unfinished work.

At the heart of this struggle stood Fannie Lou Hamer, a sharecropper's daughter whose voice thundered like a prophet's in the wilderness, signaling injustice. Her story is one of unyielding defiance, of a spirit that the brutal lash of bigotry could not break. When Hamer testified before the Democratic National Convention in 1964, her words, laced with the pain of beatings and the fire of righteous indignation, laid bare the festering wound of racial terror that had long plagued our nation. Her resilience in the face of such adversity is a testament to the power of the human spirit.

Keep ReadingShow less
Kamala Harris waiving as she exits an airplane

If President Joe Biden steps aside and endorses Vice President Kamala Harris, her position could be strengthened by a ranked-choice vote among convention delegates.

Anadolu/Getty Images

How best to prepare for a brokered convention

Richie is co-founder and senior advisor of FairVote.

As the political world hangs on whether Joe Biden continues his presidential campaign, an obvious question is how the Democratic Party might pick a new nominee. Its options are limited, given the primary season is long past and the Aug. 19 convention is only weeks away. But they are worth getting right for this year and future presidential cycles.

Suppose Biden endorses Vice President Kamala Harris and asks his delegates to follow his lead. She’s vetted, has close relationships across the party, and could inherit the Biden-Harris campaign and its cash reserves without a hitch. As Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) suggested, however, Harris would benefit from a mini-primary among delegates before the convention – either concluding at the virtual roll call that is already planned or at the in-person convention.

Keep ReadingShow less