Today, Jenn Brown, Executive Director of Battleground Texas sent this email to our list:
I have some big news.
Today, we're announcing key changes at Battleground Texas -- strategic shifts that will allow us to expand on the work of the last two and a half years.
First, we have a brand-new rockstar Advisory Board. I normally wouldn't throw a list of names at you, but this is a pretty amazing group:
Naomi Aberly, Jeremy Bird, former Dallas Mayor and Ambassador Ron Kirk, Congressman Joaquín Castro, community leader Eric D. Johnson, Austin Ligon, Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez, volunteer leader Jennifer Longoria, labor leader Marvin Ragsdale, Eddy Morales, Amber Mostyn, Carrin Mauritz Patman, Carrin F. Patman, Kirk Rudy, and Lynda Tran.
After two and a half years as Executive Director, I'll be transitioning to Board Chair.
We're also bringing on new staff.
El Paso native Oscar Silva, Latino Vote Director in North Carolina in 2012, is our new Political Director. Luis Cázares, Regional Field Director in the TX-23rd U.S. congressional district in 2014, will serve as San Antonio Coordinator. And Tyler Keen, a field organizer in East Texas, will join the team as Dallas Coordinator. Training Director Priscila Martinez is moving into a new role as Field Director.
These changes are exciting. We're recommitting to the mission to turn Texas into a battleground state, and right now that means adjusting strategy, leadership, and capacity.
We founded Battleground Texas in 2013 to empower millions of Texans who are not being heard by leaders in Austin or D.C. In our first two years, we registered nearly 100,000 Texas voters, trained and deployed nearly 35,000 volunteers, and established Texas' first dedicated Voter Protection Hotline.
That wasn't enough. There's a lot more work to do.
This year, we're holding volunteer-led regional councils across Texas, registering thousands of voters, and training progressive Texans of color through the Texas Future Leadership Program. This month, we pushed the state to make procedural changes to help more eligible voters can exercise their right at the ballot box.
This movement is made up of individuals like you who know our democracy and policies and leaders are stronger when more people are involved -- so I want to hear from you.
Write to email@example.com to share your hopes, questions, and comments about the future of Battleground Texas.
Every Texan should get an equal chance to weigh in on who represents them, and every candidate for national office should have to compete for Texas' votes.
It's critical that we continue to organize until that happens.
Lots more to come. In the meantime, thanks so much for your support and adding your voice, time, donations, and energy. I can't wait to see what we do next.
August 06, 2015
By Mimi Marziani, Voter Protection Director, @MimiMarziani
Fifty years ago today, grassroots activists won a monumental victory when the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) was signed into law. But now, Republicans are doing everything in their considerable power to roll back that progress.
Texas is now the epicenter of this voting rights struggle. Just yesterday, the conservative Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 3-0 that the GOP's strict voter ID law violates the VRA because it disparately impacts black and Latino voters. As if that wasn't enough, repeal of the Voting Rights Act is actually part of the Texas GOP's official platform (no joke).
That's why Battleground Texas will never stop defending the right to vote. We're negotiating with the Texas Secretary of State to fix rampant voter registration problems at the Department of Public Safety. We operate the Texas Voter Hotline to answer voter questions and address issues. And our volunteers have the courage to jump through hoops and register their fellow Texans to vote in the face of stupefying obstacles.
The fight to protect our civil rights, including the fundamental right to vote, will continue as long as there are Republicans willing to write discriminatory laws and block access to the polls.
I've gotta get back to work. Thanks for your support.
August 06, 2015
By Matthew Stringer, Voter Protection Intern, @mgstringer
Today marks the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act (VRA)—one of the most significant laws passed during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. The VRA was a huge victory for grassroots activists who spent years registering voters and organizing communities to build the necessary foundation. But as detailed by a recent New York Times Magazine article, new efforts to restrict voting rights threaten to roll back decades of progress—including right here in Texas.
In 2011, Texas Republicans implemented a new redistricting scheme and photo ID law—the latter of which was struck down yesterday by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals for violating the VRA. Less known, perhaps, is that they also made changes to the voter registration laws to make it more difficult for Texans to register their neighbors to vote.
Through my work with the Battleground Texas Voter Protection team, I have seen first-hand how restrictive laws and policies burden the ability of grassroots volunteers to empower communities through voter registration drives. Community-based voter registration drives are essential to increasing the number of registered voters and improving civic participation. According to the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice, these efforts are most effective in communities of color, where voters are nearly twice as likely to register through a voter registration drive as white voters. Moreover, voters who register at community drives “are more likely to go to the polls when compared with other common voter registration methods, such as registering at the DMV.” But—due to the myriad logistical obstacles and the potential for legal liability—Battleground Texas is one of only a few organizations in Texas that have been able to conduct large-scale voter registration efforts statewide.
To register voters in Texas, a person must first become a Volunteer Deputy Registrar (VDR). There are restrictions on who can be deputized—only Texas residents and those who are otherwise eligible to vote in Texas can apply. Plus, as many current Battleground volunteers know, becoming a VDR is a fragmented and often unaccommodating process. The mandatory VDR training is administered by individual counties, which are only required to offer one training class per month. Too often trainings are offered in the middle of the day when most people are at work—and, almost always, are only given in English.
Once a volunteer is certified as a VDR, that volunteer can only register voters in that specific county—there is no statewide VDR certification. To register voters in multiple counties, a VDR must request and receive permission from each individual county. And, volunteers who are VDRs in multiple counties may be required to adhere to various local rules, further complicating the process.
Moreover, because of ambiguities in Texas election law, volunteers can find themselves in situations where the law does not clearly define what they are supposed to do. This is particularly problematic because there are criminal penalties for failing to adhere to the laws. The restrictions surrounding voter registration drives have a chilling effect on civic participation, and prevent more volunteers from becoming actively involved in our democracy and building the grassroots support needed to restore the VRA.
Despite these challenges, there is some reason for encouragement. This past legislative session, SB 142 was signed into law, which will allow potential VDRs to take an online course on the Secretary of State’s website at their convenience, and then take a certification test at their county registrar’s office. But participation in this program is optional, so the reduced obstacles to becoming a VDR will only be truly realized if all counties participate.
Texas voter registration laws must be changed to encourage, rather than discourage, citizens to become deputized and register other citizens to vote. Allowing online VDR training is a good start, provided that it is implemented in a way that genuinely expands access. Implementing flexible training schedules, with mandatory weekend training sessions, ensuring that all VDR resources are available in Spanish, removing the requirement that VDRs be both Texas residents and qualified voters, and creating a statewide VDR certification are other changes that would make voter registration fairer and more accessible.
Volunteers and organizers working to change the political landscape in Texas can provide the sustained, grassroots support required to ease the voter registration rules and restore the full protections of the VRA. While change may not happen overnight, I’m proud of my contribution to expanding access to voting. I encourage other like-minded Texans to join Battleground Texas' fight to ensure that voting is fair and accessible in the Lone Star State. Together, I know that we are up for the challenge.
|Pledge to Register Voters|