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Texas Matters: Paxton causing election insecurity, grifters and Election Day friction

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton

When Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton released an opinion last week about inspecting Texans’ anonymous ballots, he declared it a “a crucial new tool in the fight for free and fair elections and should boost confidence in Texas’ elections and promote transparency in government.”

However, that’s not how experts on elections see it.

They say this ruling does just the opposite — that it opens the door to chaos at county elections offices, exposes election clerks to possible criminal charges and reduces the security of cast ballots — possibly to the point where it could be impossible to know who won a close election.

What it does is declare that cast ballots are public records — which are available to be inspected by anyone as soon as the day after an election.

To untangle this I needed help and I got it from Jessica Huseman, the editorial director of VoteBeat. VoteBeat is a nonprofit newsroom covering voting policy and election administration.

Election Fraud Grifters

Eric Hoffer was an American moral and social philosopher. He was the author of 10 books and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1983. He’s got a lot of great quotes — one of my favorites is, “People who bite the hand that feeds them usually lick the boot that kicks them.” And, “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a
racket.”

One could say we are well into the racket phase of the voter fraud scare. Millions of dollars are being raised using scary emails, videos and political speeches about voter fraud. And there is little to show for it except for the enrichment of election fraud grifters.

Texas Monthly’s Mimi Swartz writes about it in her article: “How True the Vote Fabricates Claims of Election Fraud, for Fun and Profit.”

Voter Friction

Voter suppression used to be so much more obvious in the days before the Voting Rights Act. There were impossible literacy tests and thugs with ax handles stationed at the door to the polling sites. Now voter suppression is more about dissuasion, the fine art of subtly convincing people not to vote because it’s such a hassle and your vote doesn’t really matters anyway.

This is why some people say voter suppression today is like death by a thousand cuts. Its one little thing after another — that’s cumulative — and soon voter turnout is low in certain populations and they are without the political power needed to demand needed government services, judicial fairness and control over their own bodies.

How effective are the little hassles that pop up on election day? A new study finds that they can be a significant barrier and even the people impacted by them – don’t even realize it.
The study is “Americans discount the effect of friction on voter turnout.”

Wendy Wood is a Professor of Psychology and Business at University of Southern California

Also, an update on a story we brought you two weeks ago — about the Texas Republican Party suing to kick Libertarians off the ballot. The GOP lost — the Texas Supreme Court is keeping the Libertarian candidates on the ballot.

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