With Voting Rights Under the Microscope, New Campaign Targets Texas GOP Leaders

A new ad by Republicans for Voting Rights features remarks by former President Ronald Reagan.
A new ad by Republicans for Voting Rights features remarks by former President Ronald Reagan. "Public Domain: Ronald Reagan at Durenberger Rally by Michael Evans, 1982 (NARA/Reagan Library)" by pingnews.com is marked with CC PDM 1.0
On Oct. 18, 1986, around two weeks before the midterm election, Republican President Ronald Reagan sat in a wood-paneled room at Camp David. Dressed down in a green plaid shirt, he urged his constituents to vote like their lives depended on it.

Democrats would go on to secure majorities in both chambers of Congress. But just as important as how Americans vote, Reagan said, is that they vote in the first place.

“Every vote cast on Election Day means that we the people have taken a hand in shaping our nation's future,” Reagan said, reading from a script in the snug study.

Now, nearly four decades later, Texas Republicans are pushing to pass legislation that voting rights advocates say conflicts with values the party once held dear. Many fear sweeping voting restrictions bills would make it harder for Texans — particularly those of color — to cast a ballot.

After the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, an anti-Trump organization called the Republican Accountability Project (RAP) emerged, launching a billboard campaign condemning certain Republican lawmakers’ actions. Now, some of RAP's leadership have set their sights on the state's GOP.

RAP director Olivia Troye helped to launch a new campaign, Republicans for Voting Rights, which this week aired an ad targeting Texas’ GOP leadership. The 30-second spot contrasts their push to pass new voting restrictions with Reagan's remarks and will appear on FOX in the Austin market.

The ad highlights key moments that Reagan himself spoke in support of easy access to the ballot box. Troye believes GOP leaders are wasting time and money on such initiatives instead of solving Texas’ more pressing problems.

"Republicans used to be the champions of voting rights," the El Paso native said. "Texans take very great pride in being from Texas, and I think it’s almost embarrassing that this is happening in my home state." 

"It’s almost embarrassing that this is happening in my home state." – Olivia Troye, director of Republicans for Voting Rights

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Republican lawmakers such as Gov. Greg Abbott are ignoring the will of their constituents, Troye said.

Restricting voting access is the “second continuing chapter of the ‘Big Lie,’” a term referring to former President Donald Trump’s false claims the 2020 presidential election was rigged against him. But this chapter might be even more dangerous, she continued, because other states nationwide are passing similar voting legislation.

The way Troye sees it, blocking people from their fundamental voting rights is “how democracy dies.”

A number of Texas Republicans have reached out to RAP who are also worried about the direction the GOP is drifting, she said. The organization shared a testimonial from a Dallas-area voter named Monica Haft who characterized herself as a “traumatized Republican.”

To Haft, it doesn’t make sense that Republicans would move to impede anyone’s right to vote. Even the Department of Justice has found no evidence of widespread voter fraud, leading her to believe the GOP’s true motivations are steeped in suppression.

“[Republicans are] altering the outcome because there is this either sincere belief that the election was stolen — a lot of them think that — but I think more likely than not, they know it wasn't stolen and they want to alter a future outcome,” she said.
Meanwhile, Texas Democratic lawmakers have fled the state to block new election laws. Dallas state Rep. Jasmine Crockett flew on Southwest to meet her colleagues in Washington, D.C., and spoke to Democracy Now! on Wednesday morning.

At the same time that Texas Republicans are pursuing anti-voting legislation, the office of the state’s attorney general has only seen 44 cases of election fraud over the years, she said.

“Now, you compare and contrast that with the fact that we have 30 million people in the state of Texas, and we had 700 die in the winter storm,” Crockett continued. “So, you tell me: Do we need to talk about the integrity of our electrical grid, or do we need to talk about the integrity of our election system?”

Texas Republicans, however, have defended the legislation, dismissing accusations of voter suppression. This week, Gov. Abbott released a video claiming that the bills were "making it easier to vote and harder to cheat." 
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Simone Carter, a staff news reporter at the Dallas Observer, graduated from the University of North Texas' Mayborn School of Journalism. Her favorite color is red, but she digs Miles Davis' Kind of Blue.
Contact: Simone Carter