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Texas Matters: GOP goes pro-coup, Operation Lone Star flounders and wild horse auction raises questions

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Monday, Feb. 14, is the start of early voting for the Texas March 1 primary. This is when Democrats and Republicans compete to be their party’s nominee in the November general elections. And if this year is anything like past primary elections, there’s going to be a low voter turnout.

This means whoever actually makes it onto the final ballot will be determined by a very small portion of Texans — but the results will have a massive impact on the entire state.

And this could be the “primary” problem in Texas politics.

Republicans For Voting Rights

It’s actually gotten more difficult to vote in the Texas primaries because of the voting restriction law pass by the Texas legislature and signed by Gov. Greg Abbott. The bill was pushed by Abbott as necessary to secure Texas elections. Abbott frequently said it would make voting easy and cheating hard.

But what we are seeing is voting is harder, especially for people who want to vote by mail, which is a good idea during a pandemic.

County election administrators continue to report that they are rejecting a high percentage of requests for mail-in ballots because of the new requirements of the new law.

And there is zero evidence of voter fraud in Texas, certainly nothing on a scale that is influencing the outcomes of elections.

Nevertheless, after being pressured by Donald Trump, Abbott has authorized an election audit in Texas for the 2020 election which Trump, and Republicans handily won.

The audit focuses on Dallas, Harris, Collin and Tarrant counties, and in November, Abbott and leading GOP legislators paid for it by taking $4 million from the budget for state prisons.

The funds are being spent on hiring, training and sending out election auditors to double check the results of an election with results that no reasonable person doubts.

Now the group Republicans For Voting Rights is putting up billboards across Texas about Abbott’s spending of tax dollars for the 2020 election audit.

The bill board features a close up of Abbott holding a flaming stack of cash. With the text “STOP WASTING TAXPAYER MONEY. GOV. ABBOTT, END THE SHAM AUDIT.”

Amanda Carpenter is the director of Republicans for Voting Rights. She is a former senior staffer to Senators Jim DeMint and Ted Cruz. She regularly appears as a political contributor on CNN.

Operation Lone Star Flounders

For the past year, Gov. Greg Abbott has amassed thousands of National Guard troops to the border as part of his controversial Operation Lone Star program. The program enlists the guard along with the Department of Public Safety to arrest migrants on state trespassing charges.

It’s controversial for a number of reasons: one being that immigration is under the purview of the federal government. Critics also say it’s violating due process for migrants and National Guard troops aren’t qualified to arrest them.

Abbott originally earned praise from conservatives for his border mission until recent revelations of suicides, poor working conditions, and pay issues among Texas National Guard troops mobilized to the border.

Now with early voting beginning in the primaries, Abbott is now facing criticism from both the left and the right. TPR’s Carolina Cuellar reports.

Wild Stallions

Families turned out last weekend in Seguin to adopt wild horses and burros from the federal government.

The program removes the feral animals from public lands in western states.

It is at the heart of the controversy over how to deal with the wild animals that officials say number tens of thousands more than can be sustained.

TPR's Paul Flahive attended the event to see how the promise of a free horse could draw so much fire.

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David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi