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GOP Accused Of 'Voter Suppression' Over Long Lines In Texas Primary

After the primary season stumbled out of the gate in Iowa, it was expected that subsequent states would get their houses in order for the remainder of the primaries, but troubles in Texas have overshadowed that state's primaries.

Where the Iowa caucuses suffered due to reporting problems from a wonky app, however, hours-long wait times have led to widespread anger and accusations of GOP voter suppression.

The majority of polls in the Lone Star state officially closed at 7 p.m.

However, the rules state that anyone in line by 7 p.m. would still be allowed to cast a vote. For some, that meant casting their ballot up to six hours later, as The Texas Tribune reported.

At one voting site in Houston, election officials were forced to send 14 more voting machines, more than doubling those available, to try to reduce wait times.

Although election officials did expect a higher turnout for the 2020 primary, it appears even more turned out than that.

And the long lines persisted all day. One voter told The Texas Tribune that she had tried to vote before work but couldn't fit it in due to the long lineup at that time, and when she got off work, she had to face an even longer wait.

"It just kept going and going all around the building," she said. "I've never seen lines like this." She finally cast her ballot at 10:10 p.m. after getting in line at 6:30 p.m.

Volunteers tried their best to keep spirits up.

MOVE Texas, a nonprofit that encourages young people to vote, had volunteers going around from line to line handing out water and pizza and other snacks to encourage those already in line to stay there and get their votes in.

However, the long lines also reportedly led to some leaving the line, choosing not to vote at all.

And the longest waits of all seemed to be in predominantly black and Latino neighborhoods, particularly in Harris County, as Vox reported.

Many experts pointed out that that amounts to voter suppression, and it can be traced back to a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision.

Changes to voting laws have been easier to make since the decision.

In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down part of the Voting Rights Act in its decision of the Shelby County v. Holder case. Previously, jurisdictions with a history of discrimination in their voting practices had to get federal approval to change election rules.

The Republican Texas government used that decision to make significant changes to its election rules, including requiring voters to present photo ID, as well as closing as many as 750 voting sites.

Predominantly black and Latino neighborhoods seem to have been disproportionately affected.

Of those 750 sites closed down, 542 were in 50 counties where Latino and African-American populations have grown. Latinos make up about 30% of Texas's voters, while African-Americans make up about 13%.

With significantly fewer voting sites and an energized electorate, it's little wonder Texans faced long lines to vote.

Democrats are eyeing Texas to turn blue in the election in November all the same.

But as Ari Berman, who wrote Give Us the Ballot, a book about voting rights, said on Super Tuesday, something will have to change to avoid similar issues in the general election.

"4 hour lines in Democratic & minority communities in Texas a preview of voter suppression GOP planning for November," he tweeted. "Dems need to keep eyes on prize and develop strategy for combatting this no matter who the nominee is."

h/t: Vox, The Texas Tribune