A visit to Harris County, Texas, where the governor is imposing his arbitrary will ostensibly to “maintain the integrity” of the upcoming election. Brazen acts to undermine democracy captured in the new (fictional) bestseller Stealing an Election: A Primer. All while the pandemic and fires in the West rage on.
A Visit to Harris County, Texas
Texas has more counties than any state in the Union. In all, it has 254. Of those, Harris County is the state’s most populous, with over 4.7 million people (as of July 1, 2019), accounting for approximately 16% of the state’s population.¹ It is also the third most populous county in the United States, trailing only Los Angeles (California) and Cook (Illinois) counties. Houston is Harris County’s and the state’s largest city, with over 2.3 million people. It accounts for about 50% of the county’s population.
Harris County is remarkably diverse. It is largely Hispanic or Latino (40.8%), followed by White (31.4%), Black (19.5%), Asian (7.0%) and Native American (1.1%) people. Politically, the county is ‘consistently conservative,’ yet ‘surprisingly liberal on topics such as immigration, gun control, and gay rights.’²
The county is considered a swing county in Texas, having been a bellwether in presidential elections, voting for the winner of every presidential election from 2000 through 2012. This was not the case in 2016. Although Donald Trump won Texas by 9 percentage points, Hillary Clinton took Harris County by 12 percentage points.³
Like most things in Texas, Harris County is massive. It is located in the southeast part of the state and extends to Galveston Bay. It covers approximately 1,703 square miles. In contrast, the area of the City & County of San Francisco is just shy of 47 square miles.
If you live in Harris County, thanks to your governor, it just got harder to vote.
Despite its geographic size, like all counties in Texas, Harris County will have only one location to drop ballots in the November presidential election.⁴ This is due to a recent proclamation issued by Texas governor Greg Abbot, a Republican. What was once twelve locations must now by edict be reduced to one. According to Abbot, this will provide “enhanced ballot security,” allowing poll watchers “a greater opportunity to observe.” Despite his assertion that “the State of Texas has a duty to voters to maintain the integrity of our elections,”others see this as a blatant attempt to impair the ability of many voters among the county’s 4.7 million inhabitants to return their ballots. In an area 37 times that of San Francisco.
If you were Greg Abbot, felt compelled to help the president in his reelection bid, and felt that the results in your state were going to be close, might you try to reduce voter turnout in your most populous county, one that Clinton won in 2016 and one that represents 16% of the state? Seems logical. And defensible, too, if you believe that winning at all cost is more important than democracy. Which, all things considered, seems consistent with the behavior of the administration, the Attorney General and others in the Republican party.
Brazen Acts to Undermine Democracy
Abbot’s thinly-veiled attempt to ‘maintain election integrity’ is, sadly, but one of many continuous blatant attempts by the administration and the Republican party to inhibit voter turnout. Rather than do everything in their power to maximize participation in our most important duty as members of a democracy, they are doing just the opposite — all in an effort to maintain and increase power. This is nothing new to Republicans, as Georgia voters for Stacey Abrams in 2016 will attest. Or anyone undermined by gerrymandering. It is possible that many in the administration and in the Republican party do not know the definition of ‘democracy.’ Or that they do not think it worth protecting.
There is a book in this. It’s working title: Stealing an Election: A Primer. It will contain the playbook that the administration and its supporters have developed and rolled out for the upcoming presidential election.⁵ Follow the recipe with care and you, too, can sway the results of an election. Key chapters will include:
- Chapter 1: Sowing Seeds of Doubt. This chapter will explore: the value of claiming that the election will be filled with fraud perpetrated by the opposing party, that it is ‘the most rigged election in history;’ the power of stating emphatically and repeatedly that ‘the only way we lose is if [the opposing party] steals the election from us;’ that repetition is key, as even the most audacious lies, when spoken repeatedly, become truth to many; that making it an ‘us versus them’ issue is recommended, as it is highly effective; and that this is best done by the president and other high-ranking Federal and State officials, due to their supposed integrity.
- Chapter 2: Prevent Voting By Mail. This chapter will build on Chapter 1 and will consider how to cause others to believe that mail-in ballots are ‘a disaster,’ since they allow ‘cheaters and deceivers to vote often and repeatedly;’ how to promote the notion that only states controlled by the opposing party offer mail-in voting and that voter fraud in those states is rampant. The chapter will illustrate that providing supporting evidence for these claims is unnecessary, which is advantageous since no supportive evidence exists.
- Chapter 3: Controlling the Vote. Building on Chapters 1 and 2, this chapter will outline how best to limit voting by those favoring the opposition. It will explain how to reduce the number of polling places and the number of polling place workers; how to force voters to travel as far as possible and ensure, upon their arrival, that lines are very long; how best to impede voting among people of color and those of lower incomes, two groups typically supportive of the opposing candidate; how to use concerns with personal health in this time of pandemic to your advantage; and the value of, on election day, getting the word out via social and traditional media that voting wait times are excessive. A brief discussion about attempting to arrange for blazing heat, intense cold, rain and/or snow on election day will also be included.
- Chapter 4: Dismantling Ballot Distribution and Collection Systems. Chapter 4 will promote creative ways to impair the delivery and collection of mail-in ballots. It will begin with a discussion of the United States Postal Service, with widespread publicizing through all available media that mailed ballots may not arrive on time and that completed ballots are not guaranteed to be returned in time to be counted. It will also consider how dramatically reducing the number of locations to drop mail-in ballots, as introduced in Chapter 3, can have a significant effect on voter participation. The optimum use of supporters to monitor all ballot-drop locations to deter or intimidate would-be voters will also be explained.
- Chapter 5: Clogging Polling Places with ‘Observers.’ This chapter will discuss the power of voter intimidation at polling places. This can be accomplished by encouraging supporters to spend election day in polling places throughout the country, instructing them to be on the lookout for those who are prone to cheating, defined as those supporting the opposing candidate. Despite laws prohibiting this, the chapter will outline how the use of banners, chanting, the wearing of red clothing, and the carrying of firearms near or in polling places can make it difficult for would-be voters to enter, an effective way to inhibit voting.
- Chapter 6: Lawyering Up. Chapter 6 will investigate a vital behind-the-scenes activity designed to undermine if not completely invalidate election results. The reader will learn how to build a volunteer army of attorneys to explore possible legal avenues to undermine the validity of election results in states essential to the Electoral College; the enlisting of the Attorney General of the United States, as well as sympathetic state Attorneys General to support this effort; and the creation of a plan to litigate election results to the Supreme Court, if necessary.
- Chapter 7: Undermining the Will of the Voter. This chapter will build on themes created earlier in the book, with a specific emphasis on demoralizing supporters of the opposing candidate. Based on key learnings from the current administration, this chapter will outline: the power of having the president suggest repeatedly that he may not accept the outcome of the election; the impact of communicating that a legal case is being built to invalidate election results, one that only the Supreme Court has the power to adjudicate; and that the final outcome of the election may require months to determine. The chapter will document the widespread concern caused by having leadership of the military state publicly that it has no plans to facilitate the peaceful transition of power. The intent is to cause voters to question the integrity of the election process and, in turn, the value of their vote, with some opting out. That some Americans may forever mistrust the democratic process is immaterial.
- Afterword: ‘Fairness’ Is for the Timid, by Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz and Lindsay Graham. The book will conclude with an essay by three leading Republican senators, all experts in manipulation and voter suppression, designed to help solidify the book’s teachings and to motivate sympathetic readers to take action. Their key messages: This is politics. This is about power, about maintaining power, about expanding power. This is hardball, this is the big leagues. Rules, tradition, and consistency are for losers. Conventional political warfare is dead. To the victors go all the spoils. This is no longer about ‘integrity’ or ‘honor.’ This is about winning. It is not for the faint of heart. It is only for those interested in and capable of domination.
Stealing an Election: A Primer is certain to be a best-seller. Such is our fascination with disasters, even if we are its victims.