Mother Jones

GOING POSTAL

H. Drew Galloway, executive director of MOVE Texas, spends his life trying to register young voters. Typically, in the spring of an election year, Galloway would be overseeing a staff of about four dozen who, before classes end for the summer, register newly eligible voters on 55 college campuses and at dozens of high schools.

Last year, MOVE Texas signed up more than 25,000 new voters. It reached nearly 8,000 more this year before the state’s March 3 presidential primary. But then the coronavirus outbreak scattered students, and MOVE Texas, like every other political group, suspended in-person registration drives. “We’ve gone from registering 2,000 people a week to registering maybe 100,” Galloway told me in April. “Voter registration is decimated in Texas.”

Even before the pandemic, Texas was a hard place to register. As of May, it was one of 10 states with no way to do so online. Anyone who wants to sign up voters must be deputized by each county they work in, every two years. Texas has an estimated 5.5 million unregistered but eligible voters—more people than the individual populations of 28 other states. The majority of them, according to the Texas Democratic Party, are young, people of color, or both, who would likely favor Democrats if they voted. Luke Warford, who directs the party’s efforts to expand voting, told me that Texas Democrats had hoped to see 2 million new people register this year as part of its push to tip the state blue. “We had plans to run the largest statewide voter registration program in history,” he said. “Introduce a pandemic and that makes everything you were planning to do in person quite a bit more difficult.”

Even if new voters succeed in registering, without changes to the existing system they’ll face unequal access to mail-in ballots.

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