“They just put up hurdle after hurdle for voters, and we need to be working year round,” said Rose Clouston, who was hired recently to be the state party’s first voter-protection director.
Ahead of the 2020 election, Fair Fight is partnering with state Democratic parties or other entities in 18 states to create, train and fund four-person voter-protection teams hyper-focused on making voting easier. The other states include Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina, Michigan, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, Minnesota, Arizona, Mississippi, Alabama and Maine, according to the Fair Fight 2020 website.
Republicans have dominated Texas politics for nearly two decades, but as the state’s population trends younger and becomes more diverse, Democrats are having greater success. In 2018, former congressman Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat, came close to beating Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and brought national attention to the state’s changing politics. That same year, Democrats flipped two suburban congressional districts and picked up a dozen seats in the Texas House, putting Democrats just nine seats away from taking control of the chamber — and just ahead of the next redistricting process.
The challenge for Democrats is getting more Texans registered and to the polls, work that can be difficult given that Texas does not have online voter registration and requires those registering voters to be certified to do so in the county where the registrant lives. Clouston, who moved to Texas from Chicago, said she has been surprised that “even the simple things are made way more complicated than they need to be by the state.”
In the past few months, the Texas Democratic Party — along with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — has filed three lawsuits related to voting in Texas, including one challenging a newly enacted law that bans temporary voting sites like those some counties set up near colleges and universities during early voting. State party officials say they plan to continue pressuring the state to make voting easier, not more difficult.
As part of the new voter-protection effort, Texas Democrats have hired two full-time staff members, plan to add two more in the next month and could continue to grow the team in the months ahead. The party will also create a voter-protection council that will pull together the many groups and individuals who are already working on these issues. During the general election this fall, the party plans to send volunteers to polling locations across the state to observe the process, answer questions from voters and ensure that all votes are counted properly.
The party has launched a hotline, 844-TX-VOTES, that Texans may call to receive information about registering and voting, or to report any irregularities or obstacles they encounter while trying to vote. In years past, the party has operated such a hotline just ahead of elections, but now the service will be available year round.
Abhi Rahman, a spokesman for Texas Democrats, declined to say how much money Fair Fight has provided, but described it as “significant” and said the effort is the largest in Texas history.
Correction: A previous version of this article misnamed the organization that is partnering with the Texas Democratic Party. The organization is Fair Fight, not Fair Fight Action, which is a separate organization.