The press release landed in my inbox on a Friday afternoon, when, in theory, fewer people might have been paying attention. But we were. And we knew the state’s decision to flag nearly 100,000 Texas voters for citizenship checks needed to be scrutinized.
If, like me, you knew anything about the naturalization process and who is allowed to obtain government IDs in this state, it would have been clear there were serious questions about how this list was compiled.
Immigrants are naturalized at a high rate in Texas — more than 50,000 residents were in 2017. These residents are not required to let the state know once they become U.S. citizens and, therefore, eligible to vote. Yet state officials based their review on driver’s license data they knew would likely sweep up naturalized citizens.
Within days, we confirmed that the review was deeply flawed.
As we reported on the faulty process behind the review, we knew we also needed to focus on the folks who would be adversely affected — people like Josue Chaparro, María García and Julieta Garibay, who saw their voting rights jeopardized even though they had legitimately registered to vote after becoming citizens.
Texas has a long history of suppressing the votes of people of color, and its leaders have championed laws that were later found to discriminate against voters of color. As a beat reporter, it’s my responsibility to scrutinize the state’s actions on voting rights with this important context in mind.
And my voting rights reporting continues this week: I’ll be in court today to monitor what’s next in the voter rolls debacle after Friday’s legal settlement to end the review, and I'll be back Thursday to cover the high-stakes legal fight to impose federal oversight of Texas’ electoral map-drawing process.
It’s part of our ongoing coverage on an important topic that will become increasingly vital as the state’s electorate becomes younger and more diverse. Thanks to the generosity of the Solutions Journalism Network, all donors who support our voting rights coverage by midnight tomorrow will have their gifts doubled. Here’s what your donation will help us examine as we head into the 2020 elections:
It’s likely the Legislature will adjourn this month without implementing any of the statewide reforms voting rights advocates say would make it easier to vote. So we’ll go local and look into solutions being pursued outside the Capitol, such as countywide polling locations.
This will be the first major election in Texas without straight-ticket voting. We’ll look into how this will play out in the state’s largest counties, which often have the longest ballots and longest lines.
The state’s voter ID law is here to stay, but some voters still struggle to comply with its restrictions. We’ll look into the roadblocks they continue to face and what those on the ground are doing to help.
What other questions should we be answering? Tell us in the comments.