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Texas Matters: Speaker Bonnen On Defending Police Budgets And Voter Registration In A Pandemic

Two voters head into the polls for the Bexar County primary in March. Voting will be much different for the July 14 runoff, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lauren Terrazas | Texas Public Radio
Two voters head into the polls for the Bexar County primary in March.

On Thursday, Gov. Greg Abbott asked all candidates running for office in Texas this November to sign a pledge against cutting funding to police departments.

The demand by Abbott, a Republican, comes as the nation is dealing with widespread protests over accusations of police brutality, cover-ups and civil rights abuses from police departments. Racial justice advocates are calling for sweeping reforms, including the reduction of police funding, which has been branded as “defund the police.”

But many reformers say they are not intent on the dismantling of police departments. Nevertheless Abbott said this is a reckless approach that threatens the safety of all Texans.

Texas Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen, a Republican, has signed Abbott’s pledge to protect police department funding. Many calls to “defund the police” are calls to reform police departments that came after the death of George Floyd and other Black people. Some supporters of “defund the police" say police reform and support for social programs will make cities safer.

Pandemic Voter Registration 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, there are many things that can’t be done anymore – including walking up to a table at a public event and registering to vote. With the big general election coming up on Nov. 3, how is voter registration happening – particularly in Texas, where it’s one of the most difficult states to register to vote?  Luke Warford is the director of voter expansion for the Democratic Party of Texas. TPR also reached out to the Republican Party of Texas to ask about their voter registration program. They were unavailable for an interview.

Voting Rights Cases

This week, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Texas can keep its strict eligibility rules for voting by mail.  The court panel sided with the state’s Republican leadership and rejected the Texas Democratic Party's effort to expand eligibility for voting by mail to all registered voters.

Texas allows any voter 65 or older to automatically qualify for a mail-in ballot. Democrats argued that this discriminates against younger voters, especially now in a pandemic. The case is expected to reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

This is one of many Texas voting rights cases that are being ruled on in Texas. Ivy Le is with the Texas Civil Rights Project.

David Martin Davies can be reached at DMDavies@TPR.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi.

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