Super Tuesday news coverage in local media outlets of the hourslong waits Democratic primary voters faced in Texas left out Republicans’ ongoing efforts to restrict voting, such as unnecessary voter ID laws and closure of polling sites.
Voters in parts of both Texas and California faced very long wait times to cast their ballots. In California’s case, reporting suggests it was mostly attributable to technology problems. But Texas, where some voters were still in line hours after the polls closed, has a history of efforts to suppress voting.
Texas had been required by a provision of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) to get preclearance from the federal government before making changes to its election laws because of its history of discrimination -- until the Supreme Court struck down that section of the law in 2013. Since then, the GOP-controlled state has taken actions that could impede voting: passing a voter ID law which was repeatedly struck down as racially discriminatory until the state added additional options; passing a law that resulted in closures of numerous polling sites on college campuses; and shutting down 750 polling sites statewide, mostly affecting areas where minority populations are growing the fastest. Some other Texas GOP attempts to restrict voting have failed.
Some media coverage from outside the state effectively highlighted Texas’ past voter suppression efforts. Vox’s report on the long lines in Texas noted the likelihood that the problem was due to more than just larger-than-expected voter turnout, calling long lines at the polls a “perennial problem in America” and pointing out that “Texas in particular has been making it harder for people to vote since” the 2013 VRA ruling. The Hill’s story mentioned that “the long voting lines come as state officials have shut down hundreds of polling sites in recent years, with one study indicating that as many as 540 poll sites in areas of strong minority population growth were closed.” MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow followed up a live report from a Texas polling site affected by long lines by explaining that “some of this is deliberate.”
And a CNN panel also discussed at length how Republican efforts to restrict voting were likely contributing to the long lines in Texas.
But Texas-based news outlets gave their audiences insufficient context behind the long lines Texans faced. And articles about the long lines from the Houston Chronicle, The Texas Tribune, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Houston television station KHOU, and the UT-Austin-based Texas Standard reported on problems with broken or insufficient voting machines and/or staffing problems -- but made no mention of any GOP voting restrictions, even though the Republican-dominated state government has refused to fund new voting machines requested by county governments for the 2020 election.
As media reporter Michael Calderone wrote in response to a video about the long voting lines in Texas, news organizations must cover voting rights as a topic of importance -- especially when covering problems with voting. This MSNBC segment from March 4 did an excellent job providing all the context that could be behind the Texas voting delays: