Members Only | July 22, 2021 | Reading Time: 3 minutes
The Texas AG takes his revenge
The ongoing search for unicorns.
Hervis Earl Rogers waited so long to vote that Super Tuesday slipped into Super Wednesday. During the six hours he spent in line, Rogers spoke to reporters about why he was willing to wait so long to vote. “It is insane, but it’s worth it,” Rogers said.
“I mean, I wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t vote.”
Rogers became the face of Texas’s botched 2020 primary, which was marked by long lines of confused voters. His story was picked up by national news outlets and his case drew comments from Chuck Schumer, Hillary Clinton and other high-profile figures. Commentators praised Rogers for his acute sense of civic duty and assailed officials for making anyone wait so long. Rogers’ brief celebrity, however, came at a cost.
Restricting voting rights under the pretext of preventing voter fraud has become the GOP’s signature political issue at the state level, writes Editorial Board member Lindsay Beyerstein.
Over a year later, as Texas Republicans are pushing to make voting even harder, and Texas Democratic legislators in exile are pleading for federal help to preserve their state’s democracy, the Republican Attorney General of Texas has taken his revenge.
Rogers was arrested on felony charges for allegedly voting illegally in the 2020 primary and 2018 general. He faces up to 40 years in prison. His bail was set at $100,000, astonishing for a non-violent offense. Though he voted in Harris County, the state AG’s office intends to use a legal loophole to try Rogers in the whitest adjacent county where, according to conventional wisdom, it has the best chance of winning the case.
Rogers, who is 62 years old and Black, was in the final months of parole for a decades-old burglary charge when he cast his ballot. Texas does not allow parolees to vote. However, it’s only a crime if the person knows they’re not allowed to vote and does it anyway. Rogers’ lawyer says his client thought he was allowed to. It’s laughable to think he’d have been chatting with reporters if he thought he had anything to hide.
“This prosecution is a clear attempt to intimidate voters, deter participation and stoke fears of fictitious voter fraud,” wrote a coalition of seven state attorneys general in a joint statement condemning the prosecution of Rogers.
The right desperately needs examples of “voter fraud” to justify its frenzied attempts to disenfranchise people of color. Since most documented cases of voter fraud in 2020 involved Republicans marking the postal ballots of their deceased relatives for Donald Trump, Rogers is a refreshing change of pace for propagandists. This time, they have an outspoken Black man who got some positive attention from liberals for voting in a Democratic primary. The GOP base is eating it up. “Left’s ‘Voting Rights’ Media Darling Charged with Vote FRAUD in Texas,” jeered Ben Sellers in Headline USA.
The persecution of Rogers is reminiscent of the case of Crystal Mason, a Black woman convicted of voting illegally in Tarrant County, Texas, because she cast a provisional ballot while she was still on supervised release. Mason cast a provisional ballot on the advice of a poll worker, and her vote was not ultimately counted. Nevertheless, she was sentenced to five years in prison. She’s currently appealing her conviction.
Restricting voting rights under the pretext of preventing fraud has become the GOP’s signature political issue at the state level. This year, at least 14 states have enacted at least 20 new laws to make voting harder, according to a running tally by the Brennan Center. Spurious allegations of rampant voter fraud serve to justify the disgraced former president’s claim that the 2020 election was stolen. Meanwhile, voter disenfranchisement laws and high-profile persecutions of Black voters aim to intimidate the Democratic Party’s base and perpetuate Republican minority rule.
Lindsay Beyerstein is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and investigative journalist. She’s host of The Breach podcast (for the Rewire News Group) and a judge for the Sidney Hillman Foundation, which honors excellence in journalism in service of the common good.
Published in cooperation with Alternet.
Lindsay Beyerstein covers legal affairs, health care and politics for the Editorial Board. An award-winning documentary filmmaker, she’s a judge for the Sidney Hillman Foundation. Find her @beyerstein.