The Deeply Polarized Public Opinion Context of Texas House Democrats’ Flight to D.C. to Obstruct GOP Voting Laws
we’ve gathered some recent polling results that illustrate (yet again) deep divisions along partisan lines related to almost all aspects of voting. We start with results from University of Texas/Texas Tribune polling conducted during the session on specific proposals, some of which were in the late, not very lamented SB 7, and which have been resurrected in the new voting bills passed out of committees in the House and Senate over the weekend. We’ve also included results that illustrate those same stark, partisan divisions in attitudes and beliefs about how elections worked in 2020, how they worked in Texas, specifically, and dispositions about what needs to be done in the realm of election laws.
"Election integrity" legislation proposed by the majority party this session as well as the rhetoric used to justify their proposals illustrate that Republicans have not completely ignored their critics or the lack of evidence of voter fraud that has long accompanied their efforts. This session's rhetorical justifications and proposals tap into two central sets of attitudes among Republican voters that deflect attention away from the general lack of evidence of widespread election irregularities: the ideas that the current system makes it too easy to vote, and the lingering skepticism of election results cultivated by Donald Trump before, during, and after his presidency.
As Election Day approaches, many are watching early voting for an indication of what total turnout might be - and contemplating the electoral impact of votes already cast, and those yet to come. You can find our simple tracking here, reproduced below with context from previous recent elections.
Attitudes Toward Democracy are Underwater in Texas: Some Takeaways from Results on Voting and Expectations for the 2020 Election
The COVID-19 pandemic led to local elections and run-offs some local officials postponing elections in the spring and early summer. By emergency proclamation, Governor Greg Abbott expanded the period of early voting and loosened some of the rules regulating the in-person submission of mail-in ballots, even as he and the attorney general waged political and legal counter-offensives against efforts by local officials, voting rights groups, and Democrats in various configurations to ease access to the ballot box during the pandemic. As part of this political zig-zagging, the governor, in a subsequent proclamation, limited the number of in-person, mail-in ballot drop-off locations to one per county. Despite Abbott’s refusal to expand voting by mail, as many advocated during the height of the pandemic, the new Chairman of the state Republican Party, Allen West, joined efforts by Republicans to sue the governor over his expansion of the early voting period. Both parties also maneuvered to get their third party rivals removed from the ballot. This list isn’t even comprehensive, nor have we made mention of the widely chronicled and vehement aspersions Donald Trump continues to cast on the integrity of the election process as his national and state poll numbers erode.
With all of this as context (and great interest and high expectations that the results would be interesting), we designed a battery of questions for the October 2020 University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll probing Texans’ attitudes about the conduct of the elections in Texas and their expectations of the process in 2020. The results don’t disappoint in terms of their interest, but it’s appropriate that we greet them with Halloween on the horizon. They are grim and even scary.
The artifice and hyperbole inherent in the Hunter S. Thompson reference notwithstanding, the week's election news elicited genuine fear and sincere loathing. So with emotions high and the stakes for the political system even higher, this week’s post focuses on the escalating political fighting over the rules for the 2020 general election as voting procedures in Texas are being challenged on multiple fronts, and as the President all but promises that he will contest the outcome of the election if he doesn't win. On the same day that Donald Trump refused (the first time, anyway) to commit to accepting the results of the 2020 presidential election, a group of Texas Republicans was asking the Texas Supreme Court to reverse Governor Abbott’s extension of the early voting period. All of this overshadowed the state’s compliance this week with a federal court order requiring Texas to follow the 27-year old “motor voter” law by allowing Texans renewing their driver’s license online to also update their voter registration - a possible beachhead for belatedly bringing online voter registration to the state. As the week ended, the voting plot thickened still more, as the Texas Attorney General tried to highlight a voter fraud case involving absentee ballots in a primary race for county commissioner, and a federal judge sent shivers through the spines of county clerks by blocking the 2019 law ending straight-ticket voting in Texas. And as a backdrop to the swirling political and legal chaos around elections and voting, the Secretary of State announced an increase in registered voters (registration continued through October 5). These are all pieces of an important puzzle picturing the resilience of democracy in the state and the nation. With early voting set to start in Texas in less than three weeks (setting aside the lawsuit for the moment), as a wise observer once said, all the pieces matter. I took a little more time this week to put several of them together.
President Trump took the discussions of mail-in voting through the looking glass when he urged supporters to vote by mail and to vote in person, too. While Attorney General Bill Barr testily and ineffectually tried to clean up Trump’s nihilistic weirdness (by suggesting that what he really meant was that Republicans’ voting by mail “have to go and check their vote by going to the poll and voting that way, because if it tabulates then they won't be able to do that”), Texas Republicans from both the executive and judicial branches were doing their best to stifle the attempted expansion of voting by mail in Harris County. As Trump’s latest election play unfolds in the choppy wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Greg Abbott floated the idea a relaxation of the statewide containment measures after the Labor Day holiday, seemingly not quite taking into account the lag effects in accounting for the community spread we saw after Memorial Day and the Fourth of July weekends earlier this summer, and even as pandemic data collection in Texas continue to leave a lot to be desired. Speaking of data, Comptroller Glen Hegar provided his offices’s regularly scheduled state revenue update, which enables us to look not only at quality monthly data but also provides a look at FY 2019. Much less useful was a recent release of Texas presidential polling, which got us on our soapbox about poll disclosure (sorry, though not a lot). Finally, a Texas Tribune/ProPublica report on the unsurprising news that a section of the border wall paid for as part of the ALLEGED “We Build the Wall” grift is likely to come tumbling down made us recall results from the UT/Texas Tribune Poll back when the wall was a thing. Find polling and other data on these topics in this week's Texas data points...