Texas, like many other states, has been desperately looking for cases of voter fraud in the 2020 election. Finding none, they seized on a 62-year-old man … a Black man, naturally … to make an example, to plead their case for the latest round of voter suppression laws they are attempting to pass. Charles M. Blow, writing for the New York Times, sums up the tragic case of Mr. Hervis Rogers … if this story doesn’t make you sick, doesn’t stir your ire, then I don’t know what will.
The Voter Fraud Fraud
July 11, 2021
It was March 3, 2020, the day of the Democratic primary in Texas, and Hervis Rogers, a 62-year-old Black man, was intent on making his voice heard at the ballot box. He arrived at the polling place around 7 p.m. and joined the line.
The polling place later closed to new people joining the line, but Rogers remained. Other people trickled away, unable or unwilling to wait, but Rogers remained. He stayed in that line for nearly seven hours until he was finally able to vote at 1:30 a.m.
Rogers also voted in the November 2018 election.
But there was a complication: Rogers was out on parole for a 1995 second-degree felony conviction for burglary. His parole was set to end in a few months, but it hadn’t ended when he voted in the primary.
As The Texan has reported, “According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Rogers’s parole extended to June 13, 2020. In 2016, however, he signed and submitted a voter registration card swearing that he was not finally convicted or on parole at the time.”
This, in Texas, is against the law — and punishable by a severe sentence, at least for those who “knowingly” violate this election law. Rogers claims that he didn’t knowingly do so, but it doesn’t matter: He is a Black man with a criminal history, a perfect boogeyman and scapegoat to help illustrate a virtually nonexistent problem of voter fraud.
On Wednesday, the day before the Texas Legislature was to convene in a special session called by the governor to pass a draconian voter suppression bill that Democrats had blocked in the regular session by walking out, authorities in Texas made a huge splash by arresting Rogers. The New York Times last week interviewed one of Rogers’s lawyers, Tommy Buser-Clancy, a senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, and reported that Rogers “could face upward of 40 years in prison — 20 years for each charge, according to Mr. Buser-Clancy, who added that Mr. Rogers’s past criminal record meant that the sentence could be even higher.”
This entire case is an abomination. Rogers became the straw man for their special session.
But the history of pursuing Black people for voter fraud is long. It is a form of terror as a deterrent. It is a scare tactic aimed at the Black people who intend to vote and for the benefit of the white electorate nervous that their electoral power and supremacy is in retreat. According to their logic, the determinative white vote and white voice is in danger not because of shifts in values and demographics, but because of deceit and chicanery. As such, they must pass laws to crack down and ensure the purity of the vote. They don’t want to bolster the vote, but to bleach it.
This is not the first time that Texas has targeted a Black person for voter fraud.
On Election Day 2016, Crystal Mason went to vote after her mother insisted that she make her voice heard in the presidential election. When her name didn’t appear on official voting rolls at her polling place in Tarrant County, Texas, she filled out a provisional ballot, not thinking anything of it.
Ms. Mason’s ballot was never officially counted or tallied because she was ineligible to vote: She was on supervised release after serving five years for tax fraud. Nonetheless, that ballot has wrangled her into a lengthy appeals process after a state district court sentenced her to five years in prison for illegal voting, as she was a felon on probation when she cast her ballot.
The Black vote is targeted for suppression in all sorts of ways: requiring IDs that Black voters are less likely to have, restricting the times and places at which ballots can be cast, purging voter rolls and preventing those convicted of crimes from casting ballots.
As NPR reported Friday, “Those critics also say these laws also disproportionately impact people of color. There were almost 160,000 people in Texas prisons in 2016, according to research from the Sentencing Project, a criminal justice reform group. More than 490,000 Texans were on probation or parole in 2017, and Black Texans were four times more likely to be incarcerated than white Texans, the group said.”
Each voter suppression tactic may only shave off a few percentage points from the tally, if that, but in close elections small margins matter. Taken together, these tactics can have an even larger effect.
And this prosecution of Black people who vote after convictions is not limited to Texas. Lanisha Bratcher, a Black woman in North Carolina on probation after being convicted of assault, was arrested three years after she voted in the 2016 presidential election, and faced nearly two years in prison for it.
As Christina Rivers, an associate professor of political science at DePaul University, has written, felon disenfranchisement has a long history: “These laws first appeared in the United States in the early 19th century” and “reinforced precepts of Black inferiority and criminality that pervaded the colonial and antebellum eras, and thus have had a particularly pernicious effect on African-American political power.”
Black people are targeted by the criminal justice system and that is used to target them by the electoral system. Either way, if you are Black in America, you are a target.