“Illegal Voting” in Texas and the Need for Bail Reform 

Our systems need a whole lot of fixes.

This story is infuriating, representing as it does a hideous abuse of power. In March 2020, a man named Hervis Rogers waited over six hours just to vote in the Texas primary, catching the eye of a CNN news crew.

“I figured like it was my duty to vote. I wanted to get my vote in to voice my opinion. And I wasn’t going to let nothing stop me. So I waited it out,” Hervis Rogers told CNN at the time.

Now, a year later, Rogers has been arrested on charges of “illegal voting”. It does appear that Rogers was ineligible to vote last year, as he was on parole at the time. However, a conviction under the law in Texas requires that Rogers knew he wasn’t eligible. It seems rather unlikely that anyone would wait hours to vote when they knew they were ineligible, and even less likely that they would agree to be interviewed on national news.

And yet here we are, with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton boasting about this ridiculous prosecution:

“Hervis is a felon rightly barred from voting under TX law,” Paxton said in a tweet Friday. “I prosecute voter fraud everywhere we find it!” Some have questioned the timing of the arrest that came just as the Texas Legislature was discussing new voting restrictions that Democrats had blocked in May. Some democratic lawmakers say Paxton, and other Republicans, are intentionally targeting minorities.

However, as ridiculous as this criminal accusation is, the part that really sticks in my craw is presented as a mere footnote. That’s the fact that Rogers was held in jail on $100,000 bail. There was no violence here, nor even any chance of Rogers committing this crime again any time soon. And yet the judicial system in Texas determined that Rogers needed to come up with six figures in order to get out of jail. That’s despicable.

Pre-conviction detention is incredibly disruptive, and has the potential for great harm to all of society. As such, it ought to be incredibly rare. Unfortunately, it is not. Fortunately for Rogers, the nonprofit Bail Project provided bail assistance. But such organizations can only do so much. Bail reform is a critical issue in this country, and it’s worth knowing more about.