Texas Governor Restricts Number of Ballot Drop-Off Locations

It’s never a good sign when your state makes it into the international news.  From the BBC, “Texas governor cuts back on voting locations weeks before election“:

Texas’ governor has ordered that voters can drop off their mail-in ballots at only one location per county in the lead-up to the presidential election.

On social media, there’s a push to get mail-in ballot voters to drop off their ballots rather than mail them in to prevent overloading the already burdened USPS.  That Gov. Abbott is putting up this obstacle is disturbing to say the least.  (I do wonder whether this is the result of the push-back he received from his own Republican party regarding his extension of early voting dates.)

Just for a little context, here are a few county numbers (links are to US Census Bureau website; registered voter count is from the Texas Secretary of State January 2020 Voter Registration Figures website):

  • Harris (including Houston, the 4th most populous city in the US), population: 4,713,325 with 2,370,968 registered voters
  • Dallas (including Dallas, the 9th most populous city in the US): 2,635,516 with 1,335,478 registered voters
  • Tarrant (including Fort Worth, the 13th most populous city in the US): 2,102,515 with 1,151,733 registered voters
  • Bexar (including San Antonio, the 7th most populous city in the US): 2,003,554 with 1,125,759 registered voters
  • Travis (including Austin, the 11th most populous city in the US): 1,273,954 with 813,626 registered voters
  • El Paso (including El Paso, the 22nd most populous city in the US): 839,238 with 469,342 registered voters.

The population of Texas is 29 million, 16,106,984 of which are registered voters.  I don’t have figures for how many voters have requested mail-in ballots.

That said, in a state comprising only 254 counties, we’re looking at a serious attempt at keeping voters from having their voices heard.  Which, sadly, is nothing new.

This article from KPRC in Houston provides more population-related info: “New census data: Harris County is the third largest county in the US, but how does its growth compare to other large Texas counties?

Printable Postcards: Peaceful Transfer of Power and Threats to Voting

In response to Trump’s unwillingness to commit to relinquishing power if he’s defeated in November, ABC News reports that

In a remarkable move, the Senate on Thursday unanimously passed a resolution reaffirming its commitment to a peaceful transition of power in the wake of President Donald Trump‘s refusal to do so if he loses the election.

Which is all very well and good, but I’m left wondering what something like that means when we’re still seeing attacks on the USPS and on early voting (see my last post for an example, or this story from The Texas Tribune regarding Harris County’s blocked attempt to send mail-in ballots to all registered voters in the county, which includes Houston).

I’d written these postcards earlier in the day, so they don’t cite the above action by the Senate, but given that the threats to voting still exist and Trump’s continued stance on transferring power, I don’t think they’ve been rendered irrelevant by the Senate’s action today.  Printing instructions on the linked page.

Texas GOP Sues Republican Governor over Expanded Early Voting

The Republican Party in Texas is going after its own to try to stop Gov. Abbott from ensuring safer in-person voting.  From The Texas Tribune:

In July, Abbott added six days to the early voting period, moving the start date up to Oct. 13 from Oct. 19, citing the coronavirus pandemic. In the lawsuit, filed Wednesday with the state Supreme Court, Abbott’s intraparty critics say the move defied election law that requires early voting to start on the 17th day before the election.

It is the latest legal challenge to Abbott’s emergency powers, which he has wielded aggressively in dealing with the pandemic.

Add this one as yet another attempt by the GOP to curtail access to voting….

Fellowship of Freethought Dallas Gathering: Treat or Trick? Is an Afterlife Possible?

If you’re in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and you want to start your Halloween celebration a bit early, check out the Fellowship of Freethought Dallas gathering on October 21st.  From the meetup event listing:

Treat or Trick? Is an Afterlife Possible?

In this fun, Halloween-themed talk, Professor Fisher will use some creepy Halloween stories and B-grade movies to explore some of the weird and wild ways that theologians and philosophers have tried to make sense of the possibility of an afterlife.

Justin C. Fisher is a Philosophy professor at Southern Methodist University

11:00 am – Coffee and mingling
11:30 am – Program Begins
12:30 pm – Potluck

The gathering will be held at the Walnut Hill Recreation Center, 10011 Midway Road, Dallas, TX.

A Response from Senator Cornyn Regarding Kavanaugh Vote

Just before the Senate Judiciary Committee voted on whether to advance Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court to the full Senate, I called and emailed the offices of both Senator Cruz and Senator Cornyn to voice my concerns about said vote.  I sent postcards to their local offices as well, for good measure.  They’re both on the committee, and they’re both–ostensibly–my senators, as I’m a resident of Texas.

I say “ostensibly” because Cornyn’s response demonstrates that he doesn’t represent the interests of the citizens of his state.  He represents the interests of his party.  Here is a portion of his response, with emphasis added by this blogger:

I believe we should take allegations of misconduct very seriously, which is why I support the thorough investigations being undertaken by the Judiciary Committee and the FBI. Based on his record of integrity as a father, husband, and public servant, I am confident this investigation will demonstrate that Judge Kavanaugh did not engage in any misconduct. As a result, on September 28, 2018, I voted to advance Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination out of the Judiciary Committee with the understanding that it will be considered by the full Senate following the conclusion of FBI’s supplemental background investigation.

I look forward to continuing Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation process and believe that he will serve with honor on the Supreme Court. I hope that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will join together to ensure that this process treats every individual involved with respect, fairness, and decency. I appreciate having the opportunity to represent Texas in the United States Senate. Thank you for taking the time to contact me.

Cornyn both supports the investigation, and yet he also looks forward to participating his Kavanaugh’s confirmation?  So, even before the FBI completes its investigation, Cornyn is sure that the results will show that Kavanaugh committed no acts of sexual misconduct?  Am I to take this as an indication that regardless of those findings, he will vote for Kavanaugh?  And why highlight Trump, whose recent behavior shows his unwillingness to treat “every individual involved with respect, fairness, and decency“?

Cornyn purports to represent Texas in the Senate.  In reality, he represents the worst of white male privilege in this state.

Monday Miscellany: 24 September 2018

A few links of interest from around the web:

Speculative Poets in Conversation: Holly Lyn Walrath

The Speculative Poets in Conversation Series features interviews with writers of science fiction and fantasy poetry about how their work addresses social justice issues. For the fourth post in the series, I spoke with poet Holly Lyn Walrath about her 2018 chapbook Glimmerglass Girl, published by Finishing Line Press.

Holly Lyn Walrath’s poetry and short fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Fireside Fiction, Luna Station Quarterly, Liminality, and elsewhere. Her chapbook of words and images, Glimmerglass Girl, will be published by Finishing Line Press in 2018. She holds a B.A. in English from The University of Texas and a Master’s in Creative Writing from the University of Denver. She is a freelance editor and host of The Weird Circular, an e-newsletter for writers containing submission calls and writing prompts. Find her on Twitter @HollyLynWalrath or at www.hlwalrath.com.

Freethinking Ahead: In the introduction to Glimmerglass Girl, you note that the collection “is a fantastical account of womanhood [….] that draws upon my personal experience.” Readers encounter in the poems the mundane details of a present-day life, which are punctuated by references to other-worldly places and beings, such as in “Espejitos,” “Self-Portrait through an iPhone,” “I am Going to Find the Unicorn,” and others. Do you see womanhood as a sort of balancing the otherness of the fantastic with the ordinary of the mundane world?
Cover of Glimmerglass Girl

Holly Lyn Walrath: I’m very interested in the speculative writing of contemporary women authors, which in my opinion re-evaluates how women approach our bodies. Historically, the woman-as-fantastic tradition in fairy tales and fiction has been written by men. We’ve only just begun to challenge the so-called ideals of what it means to be a woman. The fantastic is one way to do this—to embrace the othering of women’s bodies and make it our own language.

FTA: Many of the poems in this collection have references to or are evocative of Texas, such as “I Want to be a Grackle, I Want to Caw,” “Blue Cadillac,” and “Premise of the Heart.” How does this sense of place affect your creative process? And since Texas can be a complicated place for women, given its politics and culture, how do you see place as a part of your aim to depict womanhood?

HLW: I was born in Texas and have lived here for most of my life. The beauty of Texas and its conglomeration of cultures are definitely a part of me. I currently live in southeast Houston near all the oil and gas refineries, so those landscapes get into my work unconsciously. As much as I acknowledge that I’m a southern girl who loves country music and fried chicken, I also struggle with the politics of Texas. The lack of access to healthcare and alarming rate of maternal mortality rates reinforce this idea of women’s bodies being othered. There’s still a lot of shame in this state about womanhood, gender, and mothering. I grew up Baptist and I see the harm that can come from the church in regards to women’s identities. But there’s a lot of strength in southern women. “Blue Cadillac,” is an homage to my grandmother, who wore white gloves to church and was as outspoken as a matriarch can get. I don’t think I’ll ever stop writing about this place I call home, because Texas is a complex, beautiful, gritty, difficult, and kaleidoscopic state.

FTA: In “I Swallowed the Moon,” personal details show the moon as an object readily consumed by the speaker of the poem as a medium for her imagination, then later as something “haunting” and outside the known. When the speaker at last consumes the moon whole, she has “doomed the world.”

I read this poem first in a literal, speculative mode–a woman dooms the world by consuming this symbol of feminism when using it as a medium for creation no longer satisfies her appetite–and on rereading as a metaphorical exploration of the dangers of consuming myths and their implications. How do you approach myths and fairy tales, especially the “unfulfilled fairytales” of “Behind the Glass,” as both source material to be consumed and to be wary of?

Holly Lyn WalrathHLW: For me, fairy tales began with Disney. I grew up in the generation that knew the golden age of Disney as not just something to be consumed but as a kind of religion. We lived, breathed, and ate (in the form of kid’s cereal and snacks) Disney. However, as much as I love them, those stories are being reexamined today for their implications. Women were taught to be princesses, not queens—damsels in distress, not heroes. But when we grow up, we realize those stories set false expectations. I’m in love with the new Disney stories like Moana, Rogue One, A Wrinkle in Time, Brave, and The Incredibles because they give girls new options. We’re redefining what a fairy tale means and where women stand in the narrative.

FTA: Can you recommend a couple speculative poetry collections that share the same themes as yours? And are there Texas poets you’d like to recommend to the readers of Freethinking Ahead?

HLW: I love the work of another Finishing Line Press poet and Houstonian, Saba Syed Razvi. Check out her 2017 book, Heliophobia, nominated for an Elgin award. Other poets who inspire my work are Rose Lemberg (Marginalia to Stone Bird, Aqueduct Press, 2016) and Kayla Bashe (Glitter Blood, 2017).

This Was Supposed to Be a Post About the Runoff Election in Texas

This was supposed to be a post about the past week of early voting here in Texas to determine party candidates for November’s election.  Because it’s never just about elections, is it?  Not about the two Democrats vying for the party’s gubernatorial candidacy, former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez and Houstonian Andrew White.  Not about the slow start and the low turnout.  Not about strategies Democrats are using to encourage non-voters to vote.

Not when the week is punctuated by at least two mass shootings here in Texas: a mother whose ex-husband murdered all their children on Wednesday, and the Santa Fe High School murders on Friday.

But it is about elections.  It has to be.  In response to the shooting, Gov. Greg Abbott spoke at a press conference about his plans to address the issue of gun violence in schools.  From The Texas Tribune:

Abbott said that he had already been preparing to release several new proposals for gun laws in Texas.

Now, he said, he will begin meeting with stakeholders to propose “swift solutions to prevent tragedies like this from ever happening again.”

“We need to do more than just pray for the victims and their families,” Abbott said. “It’s time in Texas that we take action to step up and make sure this tragedy is never repeated ever again.”

That said, we have to question how much this willingness to act is a response to the upcoming November election.  Immediately following Gov. Abbott at the press conference was Sen. Ted Cruz, who has received an A+ rating from the NRA.  Though Sen. Cruz should have been at the press conference as one of the elected representatives of the state, his presence after Gov. Abbott’s remarks seemed, to me anyway, to throw a shadow over any proposed action.  If any of the GOP elected officials from Texas had been serious about gun control after, say, the church shooting in Sutherland Springs or the shooting at a home in Plano last year or any other recent mass shooting, then why wait for this particular horror to announce the proposed new gun laws?

In a year when Gov. Abbott’s position isn’t realistically threatened by his Democratic opponent, whoever that turns out to be, Rep. Beto O’Rourke does have a chance at unseating Sen. Cruz, and in smaller races around the state, Republicans may be defeated by their Democratic rivals.  So perhaps Gov. Abbott doesn’t need to speak to moderate voters for his own good, but he does for those candidates in his party.

So, Gov. Abbott may be right about one thing: what we need isn’t more “thoughts and prayers.”  And what we need isn’t just announcements of proposals overshadowed by reminders that too many members of his party are beholden to the gun lobby, either.

What we need is solid blue turnout in November.

Monday Miscellany: 9 April 2018

A few links of interest from around the web: