No Voting Receipt in “Spectacle Society.” . From [HERE] Early voting in Texas began on Monday, but some Texans who showed up to cast a ballot were met with a rude surprise: Despite opting to vote straight-ticket for candidates of a single party, their voting machines tried to disobey their express instructions in certain races. This means, for example, that folks who intended to vote for Democrats found themselves staring at a screen commemorating their alleged support for Ted Cruz instead.
So far, the Texas Civil Rights Project has received about a dozen reports of this discrepancy, says communications director Zenén Pérez, and the pace picked up considerably after images began circulating on social media. But for those concerned that a massive conspiracy may be afoot to deprive Beto O'Rourke of a Senate seat or steal one from Cruz, depending on your point of view, Perez emphasizes that this is a nonpartisan problem that often manifests itself in more than one race on the ballot. And the culprit isn't some shadowy team of Russophilic voter fraudsters. It is likely the state's ancient voting equipment.
For nearly two decades, Texas has relied on Hart eSlate voting machines, which look sort of like giant PalmPilots and are manipulated using a selection wheel and an ENTER button. Manipulating both of these things at the same time, it seems, is what can lead to unintended and very unwanted results. "Texas just hasn't spent the resources necessary to modernize its elections," Perez told me. "Until they do, we're going to continue to see this kind of thing on a regular basis." The trend prompted elections director Keith Ingram—who operates under the aegis of the Republican secretary of state—to issue an urgent advisory to voters on Tuesday: When a preview of your ballot appears at the very end, double-check every line before pressing that SUBMIT button.
Finicky voting machines are just one of many ways in which Texas's archaic infrastructure and draconian state laws interfere with the democratic process. It is one of the few states that still do not allow for online voter registration, and counties routinely have trouble filing the inundations of paperwork they receive before each contest. When residents attempt to register at a site like vote.org, the best it can do is populate the requisite paper forms and then instruct the person to print them out, sign them, and mail them to the local elections office. This, Perez says, is the point at which frustrated users decide that the ordeal is more trouble than it's worth.
The state even refuses to allow Texans who renew their driver licenses online to register to vote at the same time. (Only those who renew in person have the option to register.) Earlier this year, in a suit brought by the TCRP, a federal court found that this practice violates the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, which requires state motor-vehicles departments to take affirmative steps to offer registration materials to their customers. The attorney general's office—also helmed by a Republican—has appealed the decision.
Texas's restrictions on in-person voter registration might be the most convoluted of all. In order to register someone to vote, prospective clipboard-toters must first get "deputized" by the county in which the prospective voter lives, and can face criminal penalties for their failure to do so. (Perez says Texas is the only state to criminalize violations of this type of rule.)
For example, take a voter-registration booth at the Texas State Fair, which takes place in Dallas County. If a volunteer deputized in Dallas County registers someone who traveled to the fair from neighboring Tarrant County—or from anywhere else in the state—that person becomes subject to prosecution for a Class C misdemeanor. Understandably, this is a risk that many volunteers are reluctant to take. Each of Texas's 254 counties runs its own deputization schemes, some of which include mandatory trainings or tests that are administered only during business hours. "It has a chilling effect over the entire state's voter-registration process," Perez says, "and is a big deterrent to national groups that want to come in and help get people registered to vote."
No one phenomenon explains why Texas experiences such low levels of voter registration, engagement, and turnout. But problems like these—and we haven't even gotten to the state's onerous voter-ID and voter-fraud laws, which are designed to combat a problem that does not exist—all contribute to that result. "It's a death by a thousand cuts," Perez says. These stray O'Rourke-Cruz flips are perhaps the least consequential symptom of a much deeper problem: Texas's elections aren't occurring in this century, and state officials don't seem very interested in investing the time or money to change that. [MORE]