The Perils of Voting In a Texas Democratic Primary


President Franklin D. Roosevelt remarked. "Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting".

Obviously, Roosevelt never tried to find a democratic polling place in Harris County, Texas when the republicans were in power.

The misdirection, confusion and blatant "steering" that Linda and I encountered while trying to vote on Super Tuesday was an insult to the democratic process and it confirms that the Texas Democratic Party will continue to suffocate until it pulls its head out of its ass and starts kicking the republican establishment in the teeth.

Our experience was so far out of bounds that we were left seething with anger and it's not getting better with the passage of time, thus the need for this article.

To be sure, Linda and I encountered a dismissive form of discrimination which we never anticipated and it was due solely to our party affiliation.

When the ordeal was over, we went back to our car and sat in silence. Finally, I asked, "Is this a tiny glimpse into the African American experience?" She said, "Our vote won't count, let's just go home."

Super Tuesday started with a discussion about the best time to vote that would avoid the rush and long lines. I went to the Texas Secretary of State's website to find our polling place, but I found it to be impossibly counter intuitive. I then went to the Harris County Clerk's site and entered my name and got the response, "check back closer to election day as changes may occur". I went the Harris County Democratic Party site and the only prominent thing on the home page was a big "DONATE" button. After about 15 minutes of this nonsense I said, "I'm sure we vote at the regular place so let's go there."

So, at about 3 p.m. we made the ½ mile drive to our regular polling place at the Harris County Sheriff's Department offices, but upon arrival, we were surprised to see a steady line of people walking up to the door and then walking away. A lady standing in front of the door instructed, "Go to the fire station to vote."

No problem, the Westlake Fire Station is only a few moments away.
The front area of the fire station was peppered with a wide variety of political signs and activists holding banners for their candidates at a safe distance outside the legal electioneering boundary. There was no doubt that we had arrived at the polls. 2016-03-06-1457301459-1231930-westlake20160301_161223_resized2.jpg
The people who were waiting in the voting line were ethically diverse and basically reflected the demographics of our local community. Linda and I double checked our voting credentials. When we reached the building, I held the door open for a gentlemen who needed assistance and I wondered why no one was there to greet and assist voters.

At that point, I expected to encounter a poll worker or at least signs pointing to Democrat and Republican sign in areas. Instead, we were all herded into the same area by a sign that read: VOTE HERE

Upon entering the voting area, we encountered a long table with alphabetical divisions. Linda and I lined up behind the letter "L". We prepared to sign in as Democrats and follow directions to the appropriate group of booths.

This is when everything got really weird and "non democratic".

Following our sign in, we were given a voting number and began the wait for available booths.

I noticed that each booth had a paper sign on it that said "republican only". Since there was another row of booths directly behind the row of "republican" booths, I presumed the second row would be anointed with my beloved "democrat" signs. So, when a booth opened on the second row, I walked up to it and prepared to vote, only to discover that the second row of booths also said "republican only"!

It was difficult to control my anger. I walked back to Linda and told her that we had been tricked into signing in as republicans and this was a republican only polling place. When I discovered the ruse, we were literally within seconds of voting republican, an act of sedition in the family of my birth.

I went back to the sign in table and protested in a loud voice that did not conceal my anger. I told everyone involved that I had no intention of ever voting republican and their steering tactics were reprehensible. I asked where democrats vote. One poll worker said "Morton Ranch Road". I then demanded that our names be removed from the republican roster. On our way out the door, we told as many people as possible that they were in a republican only voting precinct, but most of them just looked at us in disbelief.

Morton Ranch Road is several miles long and we were given no street number. We suspected we were getting misdirected, so Linda posed the question to her smart phone and just as we suspected our polling place was actually Morton Ranch School, which is miles away from Morton Ranch Road.

When we arrived at the school, we found no evidence of a polling place. After driving around for several minutes, we found a small sign in the grass that said "Vote Democrat" about 50 feet from a door of the main school building which is a continuous structure that's longer than a city block. In this photo, you can see the tiny sign on the left of the picture. 2016-03-06-1457302380-8956002-vote20160301_153813_resized3.jpg

Finally, we asked a lady who was getting in her car if she had voted and she pointed to the correct area of the building. This was our third attempt at finding our polling place. Once inside, we found ourselves in a narrow hallway with only enough room for a single row of booths. Students were walking through the area and they could literally watch us cast our votes.

A lady who signed in before us was almost in tears. She had tried to vote three times and was repeatedly told she was in the wrong place. The precinct captain at another polling place had sent her to the school to vote and now she was told to return to the original precinct. She was literally getting sent in circles.

Linda and I finally voted.

We returned later to the Sheriff's department and found this sign on the door but there were no signs anywhere else around the building. 2016-03-06-1457300949-7659090-voting20160301_160037_resized.jpg

Our experience yielded two voting tickets with clear differences. The republican ticket (left) lacks any defining information including party affiliation while the democratic ticket clearly describes the primary. One is obviously designed to communicate the least amount of information possible and the other is clearly designed to inform. 2016-03-06-1457305205-6197685-20160306_1627381_resized.jpg

Linda and I have made no secret about "Feeling The Bern" so while driving home, we tried to extrapolate the impact of misdirection on our candidate. We are convinced that some democratic voters were tricked into voting in a republican primary and many others simply gave up and went home without voting.

Some of the people who were lined up to vote at the fire station were democrats, because several followed us out without voting when we announced that we were all in a republican only voting place. This was just one precinct out of hundreds in Harris County where the process was clearly designed to confuse and mislead democratic voters.

In Texas, the republican party has done a superb job of using money to build influence, power and ultimate control over all levels of government to the extent of institutionalizing a political caste system.

On Super Tuesday, they went too far in Harris County. I say, "mission accomplished" to the Harris County Republican Party. You have disgraced the primary voting process and yourselves.