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More on the poll watcher problem

It’s all right here. You just have to pay attention to what they’re saying.

As Texas Republican lawmakers seek to expand the powers of partisan poll watchers — and Democrats warn doing so will lead to intimidation of minority voters — newly uncovered video shows the Harris County GOP is recruiting thousands of the volunteers to monitor voting in Black and brown communities in Texas.

In the video, leaked by government accountability nonprofit Common Cause Texas, a county precinct chair giving a presentation describes the need for an “election integrity brigade” of 10,000 Republicans in Houston’s predominantly white suburbs to volunteer in the city’s racially diverse urban core.

“We’ve got to get folks in these suburbs out here that have, you know, a lot of Republican folks that got to have the courage” to cover the city, says the speaker, who’s not named in the video.

“If we don’t do that, this fraud down in here,” he goes on to say as he circles the city with a pointer, “this fraud down in here is really going to continue.”

It is unclear what the speaker is calling “fraud,” since there was scant evidence of wrongdoing uncovered in 2020, even as Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton doubled the resources for his elections integrity unit and aimed it at Harris County.

“What we see in this video is a concrete, real-world example of why it is a downright dangerous idea to expand poll watcher powers while removing the ability of election workers to kick a disruptive poll watcher out,” said Anthony Gutierrez, executive director of Common Cause Texas. “Volunteer poll watchers who have no ill intent and who do not plan to disrupt voting would have no need to be ‘courageous’ about going into predominantly Black and brown communities.”

See here for the previous mention of that video. It’s actually quite clear what the speaker means by “fraud”, and that’s “there are too many Black and brown people voting”. There’s a reason why he’s highlighting urban neighborhoods, just as there was a reason why the Trump-fueled allegations of “fraud” mostly centered on cities like Detroit and Philadelphia and Atlanta. The reason is that this speaker and a whole lot of other people like him don’t view Black and brown voters, or the votes they cast, as “legitimate” in the way their own votes are. They think that too many voters is a problem, and we’d be better off if we had “fewer but better voters”. Of course, the criteria for deciding which voters would qualify as “better” would be up to them. That much is obvious.

A House counterpart bill, House Bill 6, would prevent election judges from removing a poll worker for any reason other than voter fraud, effectively requiring them to get law enforcement involved if other disruptions were to occur.

Democrats and voting rights groups have decried the provisions of the bill as intended to deter minorities from voting, citing past examples of poll watchers in Texas yelling at and taunting voters.

Democrats and voting rights groups have decried the provisions of the bill as intended to deter minorities from voting, citing past examples of poll watchers in Texas yelling at and taunting voters.

In 2010, the Harris County Attorney received multiple such complaints of poll watchers at early voting polling places in predominantly minority neighborhoods including Kashmere Gardens and Moody Park. The complaints included poll watchers “hovering over” voters, “getting into election workers’ faces” and blocking or disrupting lines of voters waiting to cast their ballots.

The county Democratic Party blamed volunteers with ties to True the Vote, a Houston-based voter watchdog group that started as a project of a tea party organization. The group denied the accusations.

“It seemed like Republicans were targeting Black and brown voters when they sent out poll watchers in November,” the Harris County Democratic Party said in a statement to Hearst Newspapers. The GOP plan to add thousands of poll watchers and give them more power ahead of 2022 elections “confirms exactly what we suspected.”

Here’s a question to ask yourself: How do you think the people in those “predominantly white suburbs” that this speaker is attempting to recruit from would feel about ten thousand poll watchers from the neighborhoods that they intend to do their thing in showing up at their polling places to monitor them with the same level of suspicion and contempt that they intend to bring? Do you think they would accept that with equanimity in the name of “playing by the same rules” and “turnabout is fair play”, or do you think they’d lose their minds and demand a large police presence to keep them safe from those dangerous inner city rabble-rousers? I think we all know which is the more likely outcome. And that once again shows why enabling a vast army of poll-watchers with little to no accountability on them is a bad, racist, dangerous, and anti-democratic idea. The Trib has more.

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  1. Flypusher says:

    “ we’d be better off if we had “fewer but better voters”

    Better voters? Like the ones who insist that Dems are blood-drinking, Satan worshiping pedophiles? Or Jewish space lasers cause wild fires?

  2. mollusk says:

    I remember a R poll watcher during a D primary in my fairly homogeneous, well educated, gentrifying precinct a few years ago. He seemed to think his main job was to be obnoxious and obstructive. I guess we’re going to have to take this as fair warning that we’re going to need to have our own crew to act as a balance.

  3. Mainstream says:

    Having worked as an election clerk, judge, or pollwatcher since the 1970s, I think the solution is more pollwatchers, not fewer. Even well-intentioned election workers can get confused on rules and procedures. And I have seen quite a few who were more interested in having their supported candidates win the election than conducting a fair election. (I saw in the Chronicle one of them a few years later was indicted for ballot stuffing for her precinct chair contest, of all things.) Over the years I have seen some egregious behavior, the most serious of which is political officeholders campaigning inside the polling place and election workers “helping” voters with their ballots in a way that pressured the voter to vote in a certain manner. I don’t it would be tolerated today or matter given the removal of straight party voting, but an elderly election clerk repeatedly told entering voters to “vote the straight ticket”. Go to the suburbs and pollwatch, if you like. I have had pollwatchers observe my conduct when I ran elections, and sometimes they accurately pointed out an error for me to correct.

  4. Manny says:

    So Mainstream somehow poll watchers will be more knowledgeable? You ascertain this how?

    I have seen Republican election judges do that, what mainstream stated. But I doubt that is his concern.

  5. Bill Daniels says:


    Tell us all how Dems engaging in “spirit cooking,” is just some wholesome weekend fun. I mean, who DOESN’T want to smear blood, semen, shit and piss around? Good times, good times.

  6. Flypusher says:

    That’s your dumbest whataboutism yet.

  7. voter_worker says:

    Sending a link quoting nutcases Jones and Cernovich from 2016 about an obscure and yes weird art project from 20 years earlier that has zip to do with the topic at hand. Plus embellishing said art with their own fetishes…now that’s some trolling.

  8. […] for crying out loud – from taking any action in any situation to make it easier to vote. The poll watchers provision is an open invitation for all kinds of self-appointed election vigilantes to intimidate any voter […]