The Texas Republican Party was all set to hold a 6,000-person convention in Houston this next week even though the city is located in Harris County, the Texas county with the highest overall number of coronavirus cases. But because the county has averaged around 950 new COVID-19 cases each day over the last week, Houston’s Democratic Mayor Sylvester Turner effectively canceled the event on July 8.
But now the Texas GOP is suing for the right to hold the event anyway as the convention’s preliminary meetings were set to start next Monday. This last Thursday, a district court judge rejected the state GOP’s request, so now the state GOP has appealed to the Texas State Supreme Court which will hear arguments on Saturday.
The state GOP’s argument is essentially that Turner allowed thousands of racial justice protesters to congregate in the city over the last month, so why not a bunch of Republicans?
“[Turner] didn’t say a word when 60,000 people protested in the streets of Houston,” Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick recently said on Fox News. “Many of these people [are] now in the hospitals that are causing the spike.” But that’s a lie, as a thorough June 24 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) found no evidence that racial justice protests caused an increase in COVID-19 cases.
Meanwhile, health officials in Tulsa, Oklahoma believe a recent spike in COVID-19 cases there were caused by President Donald Trump’s June 20 rally, which packed several thousand people into an indoor arena.
It’s telling that Patrick, Texas’ Republican Governor Greg Abbott, and other state GOP leaders all planned to skip the Texas GOP convention in person, opting instead to deliver their speeches by video. Even the state’s Republican-led Supreme Court won’t hear arguments about the convention in person, opting instead for virtual video conferencing.
Houston Health Authority David Persse has called the GOP convention “a clear and present danger to the health and well-being of convention attendees, workers, local hotel and restaurant owners and Houstonians.”
Convention organizers pledged to conduct temperature checks, deeply clean all public spaces, maintain social distancing and offer free face masks and hand sanitizer stations throughout the convention. But Republican Texas U.S. House Representative Dan Crenshaw also approved Mayor Turner’s decision, calling it “a prudent move for public health.”
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Texas GOP Asks State Supreme Court to Trash Over 117,000 Drive-Thru Votes
A Texas Republican legislator and three other GOP members have asked the state Supreme Court to throw out over 117,000 votes collected in drive-thru early voting centers in Harris County, a state Democratic stronghold.
The Republicans allege that the centers violate state laws requiring voters to submit their own ballots and that the expansion of drive-thru voting sites in Harris County “amounts to an illegal expansion of curbside voting,” according to Forbes.
Democrats believe that Texas has enough Democratic voters to possibly turn the state blue. As such, it’s no wonder that state Governor Greg Abbott got the state Supreme Court to approve of his last-minute plan to restrict drop-off ballot boxes to just one per county, regardless of each county’s size or population.
Democratic voters are largely expected to vote early and use drop-off voting to help avoid contracting COVID-19 at in-person polling places on Election Day.
Federal Judge Block Texas Governor’s Order to Remove Most of the State’s Ballot Drop Boxes
On Friday, Federal Judge Robert Pitman blocked Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s order to only provide one ballot dropbox per Texas county, a move that was largely criticized as a blatant attempt at voter disenfranchisement as an unprecedented number of Texans are expected to drop off their ballots rather than risk possible COVID-19 exposure by voting in-person at a polling station.
While Abbott said his order was intended to prevent voter fraud, something that is hardly a widespread problem, it also would have predominantly disadvantaged Democrats since larger counties with Democrat-leaning urban centers would’ve had fewer places to accept drop-off votes. More Democrats are expected to avoid in-person voting during the coming election.
In his decision, Pitman, District Judge of the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, wrote, “By limiting ballot return centers to one per county, older and disabled voters living in Texas’s largest and most populous counties must travel further distances to more crowded ballot return centers where they would be at an increased risk of being infected by the coronavirus in order to exercise their right to vote and have it counted.”
Pitman said that Abbott didn’t prove that voter fraud is a legitimate issue for denying thousands of voters drop-off ballot access barely a month before the election.
While numerous polls show Republican President Donald Trump beating Democratic nominee Joe Biden in Texas by about 4.5 points, Democrats believe the state could turn blue if enough Democrats vote.
The Texas Republican Convention Was So Disastrous That They Have to Hold a Second One
After suing the city of Houston for the right to hold a 6,000-person convention in Harris County, the Texas county with the highest number of coronavirus cases, the Texas Republican Party decided against it and held their convention online. It was, to put it lightly, a disaster.
The disaster began before the convention even started with party leadership arguing online for four hours about how best to proceed.
“Walter West, a member of the party’s executive committee, swung a bottle of Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey toward his webcam” and warned his colleagues, “Don’t drink the Kool-Aid,” according to Texas Monthly‘s write-up of the failed convention. West said the state party’s lawyers handling the lawsuit must either be stupid or under the control of party elites who didn’t want to hold a convention at all. After his Kool-Aid remark, the digital sergeant-at-arms booted him from the meeting.
The remaining members on the planning call floated such ideas as holding hold “the convention in an outdoor rodeo expo hall with dirt floors in Montgomery County, north of Houston. In mid-July. In triple-digit heat,” Texas Monthly writes.
Usually the convention is a moment for state delegates to vote on the state party platform and other intra-party matters as well as to hear from its leadership about the coming election. When the actual convention started, the livestream simply played three videos: one from Republican Governor Greg Abbott, one from Agriculture commissioner Sid Miller and another from railroad commissioner Ryan Sitton. Then, the same videos looped over and over again.
Eventually, James Dickey, the state party chairman, appeared on camera looking exhausted and said the convention was having “technical difficulties.” The software meant to ensure that only credentialed delegates could attend wasn’t working, so they canceled the rest of the convention for that day and the following day so they could get it in working order.
While the party’s convention committee began a Google document to figure out solutions to the mess, its URL was shared on the Zoom stream, so anyone could edit it. Some troll began drawing yellow lines all over the document and another added something to the Saturday schedule that read, “Peepeepoopoo.”
When the convention resumed on Saturday, delegates who had trouble getting credentialed were furious, thinking the technical error was some shadowy plot to silence them. For some reason, the videos from the first day began replaying at random and speeded up, “like the first flashes of a very boring acid trip,” Texas Monthly writes. So little business had been completed by Saturday night, that delegates realized that they’d have to stay up the entire night just to wrap up all the details.
After debating for hours, the exhausted delegates voted to end the convention and hold a second one, but when the delegates began nominating people to help plan it, the number of nominees ballooned from 1,200 to 2,600 to 5,000. Many of the names of possible candidates were duplicated, making a massive list that would need hours of organizing before anyone could vote on it. While trying to sort it all out, some party officials lost their internet connections and rushed to find new ways to reconnect.
By midnight, Dickey was exhausted and just recessed the rest of the convention. But before it was all over, party members voted him out as party chairman and replaced him with Allen West (no relation to Walter), “a former Iraq vet who was court-martialed for torturing a man that he suspected was a member of the Iraqi insurgency.” He’s now the state party leader.
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