Rice University’s Student Newspaper — Since 1916

Monday, November 28, 2022 — Houston, TX

This is voter suppression

By Hannah Kaplan     3/10/20 6:42pm

On election day, Poe Elementary, the closest polling location to Rice, had wait times upward of two hours. The Rice University Young Democrats, Rice University College Republicans and Civic Duty Rice worked with the administration to provide a Rice shuttle to transport students to the polls. Because Harris County began allowing voters to cast their ballot at any polling location within the county in 2019, we diverted the shuttle from Poe to a West University polling location that reported no wait times. It is notable that in contrast to the area surrounding Rice, West University had three polling locations within a block of one another, with little to no line at each location. This disparity made it very easy for the disproportionately White and wealthy population of West University to vote while placing a large burden on our student population who weren’t afforded a polling place on campus. But it’s also part of a larger story in Harris County, Texas, and nationally.

In contrast to West University’s minimal wait times, voters across town at Texas Southern University, one of the nation’s largest historically Black colleges and universities, had wait times  exceeding six hours. The last voter at the precinct, Hervis Rogers, waited over six hours until he was able to cast his vote just after 1 a.m. Describing the lines, he said, “The way it was going, it’s like it was set up for me to walk away, walk away, don’t worry about it.”

And he’s right: That is the way the system is set up. In 2013, the Supreme Court decision Shelby County v. Holder eliminated the previous requirement that jurisdictions with egregious voting discrimination in 1965 receive preclearance before enacting new voting laws, effectively gutting the Voting Rights Act. Since then, Texas has closed 750 polling locations statewide, more than any other state, with the majority of these closures occurring in African American and Latinx neighborhoods. Harris County had the third-most poll closures in the state since the decision, with 52. These closures have significant impacts on primarily minority communities, as we saw at TSU. When privileged communities have no line at the polls while disadvantaged communities are forced to spend hours waiting to cast their ballot, that is voter suppression.



According to the Texas Election Code, both the Republican and Democratic parties must agree on a polling place’s location. If you voted, you might have noticed how the two parties’ primaries were separated from each other. This was not always supposed to be the case. The Harris County clerk offered both parties an opportunity to conduct a joint primary, an offer which county Republicans refused, citing high Democratic turnout and low expected GOP turnout, and concluding that, “making Republican voters wait in Democrat lines would discourage voting.” In effect, this made Democratic primary lines even longer, as more voters were forced to use fewer machines. It is up to us to highlight these gross disparities that have only been growing since the Shelby County decision. We recognize this voter suppression and we won’t stand for it. We demand equitable access to the ballot, and this starts with equalizing polling locations across Houston.

Hannah Kaplan, Duncan College senior, is the vice president of Rice University Young Democrats.



More from The Rice Thresher

OPINION 11/15/22 10:21pm
Where we must agree: the politics of humanness

The words “free speech” will likely elicit groans from Thresher readers. Over the last three years, there have been three articles in the Opinion section bemoaning the need for a “classically liberal” political discourse at Rice. Unfortunately, between their self-righteousness and needless wordiness, they read more like whiny lectures than conversation starters. However, despite their condescension, their existence does suggest something unsettling about not just our campus politics, but politics at large. As the electorates of democracies around the world have become more sharply divided, the way we speak to each other, not just across the aisle but to our similarly minded partisans, has become more accusatory, exclusionary and violent. Put simply: we do not want to talk to each other, and understandably so. It is exhausting, and, more than that, we just don’t seem to know how to.

OPINION 11/15/22 10:16pm
Off-campus students should sublet their rooms to those who need winter break housing

For the first time since 2019, Rice is not allowing undergraduate students to remain in their on-campus housing during winter break. While this is a disappointing development, we understand why this decision needed to be made. Like students, staff need a break after a long semester. Further, keeping students on campus by providing housing over break was originally implemented to address pandemic travel restrictions, which are mostly gone. However, the need for winter housing is not gone. This decision still leaves some international students — or any other on-campus student looking to remain in Houston — scrambling for housing.

OPINION 11/8/22 11:39pm
The Honor Council needs to act more responsibly

For the past year, I have served as an at-large representative on the Rice Honor Council. I have sat through dozens of cases, read hundreds of pages of evidence and spent countless hours working to improve the transparency and fairness of the Honor System. While there are a myriad of issues with the Honor System, as there are with any institutional system, there is one in particular that needs to be addressed with expediency. The Honor Council is currently not an effective deliberative body due to the general lack of engagement from some of its members, which include elected representatives.  


Comments

Please note All comments are eligible for publication by The Rice Thresher.