Things That Matter

Voting Rights Activists Are Sounding The Alarm Of Latin Voter Suppression In Texas

Voting turnout is the topic on everyone’s lips as we get closer to Nov. 3. The current election cycle has seen record early voting, especially for Democrats. However, in Texas, the increased turnout has led to what many are calling voter suppression to prevent the growing Latino community from voting.

Voting advocates are sounding the alarm that Texas’ GOP governor and politicians are suppressing Latino voters.

Latinos are 40 percent of the Texas population. According to a poll, Latino voters in Texas are more motivated than they were in the 2018 midterms. Twenty-eight percent of Latino voters turned out in 2018 and things have changed drastically since, mainly due to Covid-19.

Latinos in Texas are facing disproportionate rates of Covid-19 infections.

Houston Public Media reported that while Latinos make up 40 percent of the population in Texas they make up 52 percent of Covid infections. Meanwhile, white Texans make up 30 percent of Covid infections. The numbers show an uneven response to the pandemic that has left Latinos behind.

The forced consolidation of drop-off locations and limiting of mail-in ballots is further endangering the Latino community. The Covid pandemic is not over and forcing people to vote in person will only increase the spread of the virus.

One way Gov. Greg Abbott has made it harder for people to vote safely is limiting drop-off locations for mail-in ballots.

Gov. Abbott made the decision to limit the number of ballot drop-off locations to one per county. As demonstrated by the graph above, this leaves 4.7 million residents of Harris County one drop-off location. Gov. Abbott cited the false Republican talking point of voter fraud as his reasoning for suppressing the vote in the Lone Star State. By comparison, Los Angeles County, home to 10.4 million residents, has 398 drop-off locations for mail-in ballots.

Despite this, Texas Latinos are fired up and ready to vote.

A poll found that 90 percent of Latinos voters are ready to vote in the 2020 election. Sixty-six percent of those voters are leaning towards are are definitely voting for a Biden/Harris ticket compared to 25 percent voting Trump/Pence. A large majority of Latino voters says that it is more important to vote now than it was in 2016 because of everything that is at stake.

READ: Republicans Have Made Voting In This Majority Latino Town In Kansas Nearly Impossible

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From COVID To Elections, Here’s Why Misinformation Targets Latinos

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From COVID To Elections, Here’s Why Misinformation Targets Latinos

Antonio Masiello/Getty Images

One of the big surprises of the 2020 election was how even though most Latino voters across the U.S. voted for Joe Biden, in some counties of competitive states like Florida and Texas, a higher-than-expected percentage of Latinos supported Donald Trump. One factor that many believe played a role: online misinformation about the Democratic candidate.

Another important subject that’s been victim of a massive misinformation campaign is the Coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing vaccination program. But why does #fakenews so heavily target the Latino community?

Since the 2020 campaign, a large misinformation campaign has target Latinos.

Although fake news is nothing new, in the campaign leading up to the 2020 elections it morphed into something more sinister – a campaign to influence Latino voters with false information. The largely undetected movement helped depress turnout and spread disinformation about Democrat Joe Biden.

The effort showed how social media and other technology can be leveraged to spread misinformation so quickly that those trying to stop it cannot keep up. There were signs that it worked as Donald Trump swung large numbers of Latino votes in the 2020 presidential race in some areas that had been Democratic strongholds.

Videos and pictures were doctored. Quotes were taken out of context. Conspiracy theories were fanned, including that voting by mail was rigged, that the Black Lives Matter movement had ties to witchcraft and that Biden was beholden to a cabal of socialists.

That flow of misinformation has only intensified since Election Day, researchers and political analysts say, stoking Trump’s baseless claims that the election was stolen and false narratives around the mob that overran the Capitol. More recently, it has morphed into efforts to undermine vaccination efforts against the coronavirus.

The misinformation campaign could have major impacts on our politics.

Several misinformation researchers say there is an alarming amount of misinformation about voter fraud and Democratic leaders being shared in Latino social media communities. Biden is a popular target, with misinformation ranging from exaggerated claims that he embraces Fidel Castro-style socialism to more patently false and outlandish ones, for instance that the president-elect supports abortion minutes before a child’s birth or that he orchestrated a caravan of Cuban immigrants to infiltrate the US Southern border and disrupt the election process.

Democratic strategists looking ahead to the 2022 midterm elections are concerned about how this might sway Latino voters in the future. They acknowledge that conservatives in traditional media and the political establishment have pushed false narratives as well, but say that social media misinformation deserves special attention: It appears to be a growing problem, and it can be hard to track and understand.

Some believe that Latinos may be more likely to believe a message shared by friends, family members, or people from their cultural community in a WhatsApp or Telegram group rather than an arbitrary mainstream US news outlet; research has found that people believe news articles more when they’re shared by people they trust.

Fake news is also impacting our community’s response to the pandemic.

Vaccination programs work best when as many people as possible get vaccinated, but Latinos in the United States are getting inoculated at lower rates.

In Florida, for example, Latinos are 27% of the population but they’ve made up only about 17% of COVID-19 vaccinations so far, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation. And Latinos are relying on social media and word-of-mouth for information on vaccines — even when it’s wrong. There’s myths circulating around the vaccine, whether you can trust it and the possible the long-term effects.

And it’s not just obstacles to getting information in Spanish, but also in many of the native Mayan indigenous languages that farmworkers speak in South Florida.

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Racists Threatened To Call ICE On This Mexican Restaurant After They Kept Their Mask Rule

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Racists Threatened To Call ICE On This Mexican Restaurant After They Kept Their Mask Rule

Felix Aguilar / Getty Images

Several states across the country (mostly governed by Republican leaders) have decided to repeal their mask mandates despite their own health officials urging against such moves.

Yes, the vaccine roll out has improved under the Biden administration – with nearly 2 million people getting vaccinated each day – but that is still not enough for the United States to reach herd immunity over night.

Now, thanks to these irresponsible moves by Republican governors, Americans are left to fend for themselves against anti-makers. In fact, a Mexican restaurant in Texas that decided to keep its mask mandate for diners is now facing racist attacks with people threatening to call ICE on its workers.

Texas Mexican restaurant is facing a backlash for sticking to its mask rules.

Houston’s Picos Restaurant, a small family-owned Mexican restaurant, is facing racist threatening comments after deciding to prioritize public health amid an ongoing pandemic. Several people sent hateful messages through social media and called the restaurant, threatening to report staffers to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“It was just horrific,” co-owner Monica Richards told the Washington Post. “People don’t understand unless you’re in our business what it felt like, how hard it was to go through everything we went through during covid. For people to be negative toward us for trying to remain safe, so that this doesn’t continue to happen, just makes zero sense to us.”

Picos decided to maintain their mask mandate as the governor lifted the state-wide one.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) rescind the statewide mask mandate despite the fact that a vast majority of his state’s residents remain vulnerable to COVID-19. The governor has ignored the advice of his own public health officials who say the state should wait on lifting these mandates until their is a greater incidence of vaccination in communities.

With Abbotts order, Texas will become the largest state in the nation to no longer require masks, which has not come easily for many businesses that are navigating enforcement mask rules to protect employees and customers while facing backlash.

Experts agree that masks are among the most effective way to curb the spread of COVID-19, but they’ve also become a partisan symbol. Masks have become so symbolic that one conservative group is set to hold a mask burning party the day the order is lifted, according to the Washington Post.

Picos hasn’t been the only restaurant facing such a backlash.

In fact, another Mexican restaurant in Houston, Cantina Bar, has been the victim of similar threatening messages, while several staff have been intimidated by screaming customers who refuse to wear masks even while it was required by a state order. Another Houston Mexican restaurant, Cantina Barba, received similar intimidating messages, and staff have been bullied by some screaming customers who refused to wear masks while it was required statewide, co-owner Steven O’Sullivan said.

“This has been ongoing through covid,” co-owner Steven O’Sullivan told the Post. “We’ve had threats of calling ICE. I had one guy just stand there and berate one of my bartenders and tell her ‘you’re an absolute idiot, you don’t know what you’re doing. If you think these masks are going to save your life, you’re stupid’ blah, blah, blah. Nobody wants to deal with that stuff.”

Another employee at a separate restaurant had to get stitches after he was hit in the head with a glass by a maskless customer he approached, Houston Police said. Hopefully, the governor will still encourage his constituents to do what’s right and continue to wear masks when asked to do.

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