Michael Barajas

Michael Barajas is a staff writer covering civil rights for the Observer. Before joining the Observer, he was editor of the San Antonio Current and managing editor of the Houston Press. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. You can reach him on Twitter or at [email protected].

By Michael Barajas:

prairie view, voter suppression, midterms

On Election Day, Students Rally for Voting Rights at Texas’ Oldest HBCU

Prairie View A&M students, galvanized by yet another fight for equal voting rights, march to the polls.

When Jessmine Cornelius encourages other students to vote, she takes a moment to remind them about the history of discrimination against students at Texas’ oldest historically black college — and how they have always fought back. This year, Prairie View … Read More

Prairie View A&M students wait to vote

In the Midterms, Texans Face a ‘Panoply of Voter Suppression’

Civil rights groups accuse Texas of implementing a layer-cake of voter suppression techniques.

Restricted voting hours for college students, translators barred from polling places in immigrant-heavy communities, an aging fleet of voting machines prone to botching ballots — those are just some of the problems Texans experienced so far during early voting. Civil … Read More

Criminal Justice

Dallas County’s Cop-Convicting DA Is Among the Most Vulnerable Down-Ballot Republicans This Election

Even with her record for prosecuting cops, Faith Johnson hasn’t won over criminal justice reformers, who’ve made Dallas ground zero in the movement to elect progressive prosecutors.

On the first day of early voting, Liz Wolff was walking up to her Oak Cliff polling place when a man campaigning for Dallas County DA Faith Johnson approached her with a flyer. Wolff, a training director for the Texas … Read More

Ken Paxton

Texas’ Indicted Attorney General is Barely Bothering to Campaign

This year, Ken Paxton is again running in absentia: avoiding the press, making few public appearances and refusing to debate Democratic challenger Justin Nelson.

It’s the Ken Paxton Vanishing Act, where you insert yourself in matters deeply consequential to Texans, only to then disappear — declining to comment or even show your face in public. In 2014, Paxton won a bitter GOP primary for … Read More

Criminal Justice

In Arlington, How Not to Respond to a Police Shooting

The Arlington Police Department's bumbling response to the death of O'Shae Terry has only inflamed community tensions. Meanwhile, the DA has gone radio silent ahead of the election.

The meeting started cordially enough, but quickly turned sour. Angry community members lobbed question after question at a representative of the Arlington Police Department: “How do I know your police officers are not going to kill my child?” “How can … Read More

Criminal Justice

Texas Prisons Lead the Nation in Long-Term Solitary Confinement

Nearly a third of Texas prisoners in restrictive housing have been there for six years or longer, according to a new national survey.

The growing bipartisan consensus around solitary confinement — that it’s inhumane and overused across the criminal justice system — has led to its sharp decline in recent years, including in Texas. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), which kept … Read More


Texas Governor Greg Abbott Opens His Mind to Marijuana Decriminalization… Kinda

Activists say Abbott’s moderated stance is “huge,” but his call for reform still lags behind Texas Republicans and the general public.

For the past three years, Governor Greg Abbott has been viewed as a primary hurdle to rewriting Texas’ draconian marijuana laws. So on Friday, when he revealed he’s “open” to the idea of reducing criminal penalties for low-level pot possession … Read More

Criminal Justice

Stand By Your Man

How the Collin County GOP derailed Ken Paxton’s prosecution and turned him into a right-wing hero.

by Michael Barajas October 1, 2018 Three years ago, just months after being sworn in as Texas attorney general, Ken Paxton’s days seemed numbered. In July 2015, a grand jury had indicted Paxton on three felony charges — two for … Read More