I never knew how “easy” I had it voting in California. I had the privilege of voting in the primary elections since 2008.
I must admit, election season was always overwhelming. I often came home with lots of mail with postcards from politicians. Commercials were always about voting for someone. But California made it easy for me. I could always count on receiving a mail in ballot and could find voter guides and resources to help me digest what was on the ballot. The lines were never too long and there were polling places everywhere. As a kid, I remember walking to our local middle school with my grandfather so he could vote. I am forever grateful for my family who instilled in me the importance of voting and being engaged.
Voting is also somewhat more accessible in California, especially for my family. They had the option to receive their ballots in Tagalog. There were many voter resources catered to their needs as Filipinos that helped them navigate which ballots to vote for!
My voting experience drastically changed when I moved to Texas in 2018. To my surprise, I saw so much more lawn signs everywhere! There were so many lawn signs at the entrance of polling places I voted at – you couldn’t even see the grass!
But also, to my surprise, my partner and I experienced with voter suppression in Texas. For example, when we voted in the local elections, I had a smooth check in process; however, my partner did not. The poll workers thoroughly checked his identification and even asked for proof of residence. You also have to “qualify” for mail-in voting here – it is really challenging to get this option.
Earlier this year for the primaries, my colleagues and I decided joined the walk to the polls in with our graduate program. (Side note: It was so invigorating and empowering to walk together to the polls because voting is a right and sadly, a privilege in our society!). We were met with other people whose values did not align with our cheers for voting. We were also met with a 2-hour line for the “Democrats” line, and this was during early voting! In Houston, there were also reports of 4-6 hour lines at other polling locations.
Most recently in Texas, Governor Abbott attempted to decrease the number of mail-in ballot locations. This change would make sense for counties with a population of less than 100; however, this did not make sense for counties like Harris County with over 4 million people. That is ultimately a form of voter suppression!
I am grateful for Harris County’s leadership in increasing access to the polls during early election. This election season, our early voting has been extended. We also have various ways to vote despite current circumstances of living in a global pandemic, since many folks do not qualify for mail-in voting.
Last week, we participated in early voting by going to one of the drive-thru voting polling stations. It was straight forward and the wait was less than 10 minutes, which was very different than before. We were greeted by a poll worker in a mask, he gave us clear instructions verbally and visually on a poster, then we parked to an open spot. (Poll workers are a lifesaver in elections! Thank y’all for all that you do!) The poll worker checked our identification and we had to take turns on voting. Voting suppression is real here in Texas but I am grateful for our county’s leadership who is advocating for increased access to voting!