Texas’ Carol Alvarado—One Strong Fighter for Voting Rights August 16, 2021
Mississippi may lead the nation in economic and social backwardness. However, the efforts of nearby “y uu ge” Texas in blatantly backing many extremist causes makes MS a mere blip on the hard-right radarscope. The Lone Star State, under the “leadership” of wacko Governor Greg Abbott and his zany Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, wins the gold medal in the 2021 GOP “Reactionary Olympics.” IMHO, TX even beats its nearest competitor FL, headed by “Looney Tunes” Republican Governor Ron DeSantis. TX refuses to allow its school boards and cities to enforce masked mandates. Abbott and Patrick fight life-saving anti-COVID vaccinations at every turn. Who cares if hospitals are overcrowded and more deaths occur from the fast-spreading Delta COVID-19 variant? Why “we’re owning the libs” by blaming this COVID surge on Joe Biden and his Democrats. At the same time, TX is pushing for even more stringent anti-abortion laws than MS. And, finally, TX and its GOP majority understand that the only way they will be able to stay in power against the rise of a fast-growing Democratic Hispanic, black, and Asian population is to do everything in its power to suppress the voting rights of these “Blue”-leaning groups. How? By using their political power in their trifecta (GOP governor and two heavily gerrymandered state house chambers) to suppress minority voting rights in the name of protecting against non-existent “voter fraud.”
The voting-rights suppression bill TX put forward, SB1, includes bans on 24-hour polling locations, prohibits drive-through voting, and gives partisan poll watchers more access to the election process (cnn.com, Gallagher, 8/12/21, AP, “politico.com, 8/12/21). It passed the TX GOP-dominated Senate on an 18-11 party line vote (cnn.com, Gallagher, 8/12/21). This bill passed the TX Senate fewer than 20 minutes after a 15 hours and 4 minutes filibuster of the bill by Democratic State Sen. Carol Alvarado concluded. Alvarado started speaking shortly before 6:00 p.m. on 8/11/2021. She acknowledged that her filibuster would not block this legislation. However, she undertook this filibuster “to call attention to what is at stake (cnn.com, Gallagher, politico.com, AP, 8/12/21)”. Under TX law, Alvarado was required to remain standing and speaking, and was prohibited from taking bathroom breaks. She was also barred from eating and drinking. Alvarado wore running shoes on the Senate floor. She also wore a back brace for support and used a urinary catheter (cnn.com, Gallagher, politico.com, AP, 8/12/21).
State Sen. Alvarado declared, “What’s wrong with drive-thru voting during a pandemic? What’s wrong with 24-hour voting? Why can’t we have expanded voting hours for the people who have to work late? Where is all the so-called fraud? Where does it end (AP, politico.com, 8/12/21)?” Alvarado stated, “What do we want our democracy to look like? Do we want access to our electoral process to be more difficult for people with disabilities, or do we remove barriers for them? For communities of color, do we want to defend the tremendous progress that we’ve made in civil rights and equality or chip away at their voting rights one Senate bill at a time (texastribune.org, Ura, 8/11-12/21)?” After putting down her microphone and ending her filibuster, she hugged her Democratic colleagues. This awful bill now goes to the TX House. Alvarado’s filibuster gives her minority TX Democratic House colleagues the courage to stay away and stall passage of this measure that represses minority voting rights. For 32 days, at least 57 TX Democrats have stayed away from the House. They have fled to D.C. to keep the TX GOP House from having the necessary quorum to vote on this bill (thehill.com, Wilson, politico.com). The TX House Speaker recently signed civil arrest warrants for 52 Democrats to compel their return to the TX House chamber. A few Democrats have returned to the TX House floor, but a quorum has still not been reached in this second session called by GOP Gov. Greg Abbott. Abbott has vowed to call “special session after special session” until Democrats return and complete his agenda (Gallagher, cnn.com, 8/12/21). Meet Carol Alvarado.
Houston, TX native, Carol Alvarado (54) was a longtime resident of that city’s Hispanic East End. She has an undergraduate degree as well as an MBA from the University of Houston (web.archive.org, “TX House Bio: Carol Alvarado”). She now represents the TX 6th Senate District (SD). The TX 6th SD is located in the East Houston area in Harris County. It contains much of the city of Baytown, more than half of the city of Pasadena, and the overwhelming majority of Jacinto City. All of Galena Park and the South Houston neighborhoods are in the SD 6th, as well as about just over 1/5 of the actual city of Houston itself (Senate District 6-Plans 172). The Lone Star 6th SD is just 9.8% non-Hispanic Anglo. It is 75.8% Hispanic and 12.6% black (TX Legislative Council, Research Division). The TX 6th SD is part of the TX 29th U.S. Congressional District (CD), the east and north side of TX. Unlike the white-collar west side of Houston, the CD 29th, located around the port with its refinery towers, is a blue-collar magnet for Mexican Americans. It has a 77.4% Latino population, with just 9.7% whites and 10.6% blacks. This CD has an ultra-“Blue” Cook Partisan Voting Index (PVI) of D+19, and is currently represented by second-term Democratic Congressmember Sylvia Garcia (Cohen & Cook 2020 Political Almanac, CQ Cong. At Your Fingertips, 117th Congress). In 2020, Joe Biden carried the TX 29th area by 33 points, 66%-33% (Presidential Election Results).
State Senator Carol Alvarado’s political activism started at age 12. At that time, Alvarado assisted her godfather’s campaign for Houston City Council District I. Alvarado worked in City Hall as a Senior Executive Assistant to Houston Mayor Lee P. Brown. Alvarado additionally served as a legislative assistant to Congressmember Gene Green in Washington, D.C. Dem. Rep. Green was the Congressmember who represented the 29th CD for 26 years prior to Sylvia Garcia’s winning it after Green did not run in 2018. Alvarado also worked as a consultant in economic and community development in Houston’s East End neighborhoods (“TX House Bio: Carol Alvarado”). From 2002-2007, Alvarado served on the Houston City Council, District I. On the City Council, Alvarado worked to close down nuisance bars in neighborhoods, improve air quality, and secure cameras at rail crossings. She was instrumental in creating the Parking Commission. She spearheaded a Houston city ordinance that bans smoking in restaurants and bars (“TX House Bio”).
In 2008, Alvarado was elected to the TX House of Representatives from the 145th District. She served in that body from 1/13/2009-12/21/2018. In the TX House, Alvarado was the Co-Chair of the Transparency in State Operations Committee and the Vice-Chair of the Urban Affairs Committee. She was a member of the House Calendars and Special Purpose Districts Committees. Alvarado’s main focus in the TX House was on public health, public education, and economic development. In the TX House, Alvarado authored bills to qualify all TX 4-year-olds for pre-kindergarten. She authored bills to increase career and technology education funding, to limit elementary school class size, and to freeze tuition at public colleges and universities (capitol.state.tx. us). Even before she became nationally known for her filibuster against voting rights suppression in the TX State Senate, Alvarado received media attention in 2011. At that time, the TX House was debating House Bill 15, a mandatory sonogram bill. Alvarado spoke on the floor of the House chamber and displayed a 10-inch trans- vaginal wand, and described the intrusiveness of the sonogram procedure (captiol.state.tx.us, texastribune.org, 3/03/2011).
On 12/11/2018, Alvarado won a special election to fill the TX State Senate 6th District seat. The SD 6th was left vacant by the resignation of Sylvia Garcia who had been elected in 11/2018 to the TX 29th Congressional District in the U.S. House. Alvarado took her office in the SD 6th on 12/21/2018 (See Svitkek, “Texas Tribune,” 12/13/18). In 2020, Alvarado handily won her own term, thrashing a Libertarian by 68.2 points. The GOP did not field a candidate against her (texastribune.org). Alvarado now has a full 4-year term of her own (See texastribune.org).
In the TX State Senate, Alvarado is the vice chair of the Ports Select Committee, a post of crucial importance to her Senate district. She also sits on the Administration, Natural Resources and Economic Development Committee. She additionally is on the Nominations, Transportation, and the Special Redistricting Committees. The National Resources and Economic Development Committee is a key post for Alvarado since her Senate District with the Houston port is the site of the largest petrochemical complex in the nation (Cohen & Cook 2020, texastribune.com). And Alvarado is at “Ground Zero” with her position on the Special Redistricting Committee. With congressional and state redistricting now taking place for the next 10 years, she will do her level best to keep trifecta GOP TX from trying to severely gerrymander her increasingly Democratic area as well as her entire state. More Hispanics and people of color have now entered TX making it a more “purple” area. Trump only won TX in 2020 by 5.6 points (“A Return To Normalcy,” Sabato, Kondik, & Coleman, 2021). TX may soon be on the way to becoming the next swing state for Democrats, like Georgia and Arizona. The reactionary GOP knows this. TX GOPers will do everything it can to diminish increasing Democratic power in TX state and federal districts as well as suppress high “Blue” voter turnout. Fair voting rights and fair redistricting are absolutely key to having a strong democracy and “a more perfect Union.” Alvarado knows this and so do the brave TX State House Democrats preventing the GOP from getting a quorum in their chamber to gut voting rights. The general public supports making voting easier and is hostile to political gerrymandering. Kudos TX Senator Carol Alvarado! Your efforts have shown both Texas and the rest of the nation what is truly at stake.