As people filed in and out of the massive driver license office in Southwest Houston on Tuesday morning, two workers at a tent affiliated with a conservative advocacy group asked if the passersby would sign a petition or register to vote.
A follow-up question as two women filled out the forms: Are you conservative or liberal?
“Conservative means you believe in less government and less taxes,” one of the workers – wearing a lime green T-shirt with the group’s name, Engage Texas — asked them. “Liberal means you believe in more government and more taxes.”
State Rep. Chris Turner, who leads the Democratic Caucus in the Texas House, said he witnessed something similar Monday outside Department of Public Safety driver license offices in Fort Worth and in Hurst, a suburb of Dallas, where people who signed a petition to ‘ban late-term abortion’ were asked to register to vote.
“The taxpayers of Texas have a right to expect that their hard-earned dollars are not subsidizing political activity, as is the case here,” Turner wrote Tuesday in a letter to DPS. “And Texans who are trying to renew their driver licenses, already forced to wait hours – sometimes outside in the heat – are enduring enough already without having to deal with political operatives while stuck in line.”
But DPS said in a statement that public spaces outside driver license offices are available for “political speech,” and it appears that Engage Texas is just beginning to ramp up its efforts to register voters ahead of the 2020 elections in which the GOP faces more competitive races than it has in over a decade.
Engage Texas, a super PAC backed by many of the state’s top Republican contributors, has already accumulated nearly $10 million since it was created about a month ago with the goal of registering more Texans to vote. The group’s executive director Chris Young was the former national field director for the Republican National Convention in 2016.
Rather than complain, Democrats should be setting up their own tables.