Lines continued to harden in Texas politics during the last fortnight. It began to soak into the state’s political consciousness that the heavy vote for Republican Cox for governor necessarily weakened the voting strength of conservative Democrats in the 1964 state and presidential party conventions. A Dallas TimesHerald article broached the likelihood that if precincts continue voting as they have in the past, liberals could win a 65 percent victory in Dallas in the ’64 convention. The Corpus Christi Caller-Times noted that liberal precincts in Nueces County lost less ground numerically in county convention delegate strength than did conservative precincts. The heavy Republican vote for governor in Smith County, East Texas, stirred the county Democratic chairman there, Joe Tunnell, to observe that the county’s delegates to the state convention will be halved in 1964. With liberals banking on vigorous G.O.P. primary and convention fights in 1964 further to weaken the Democratic conservatives, one perceives the rationale for the Times-Herald headline. “Liberal Takeover?” The Rev. Rhett James, a Negro leader in Dallas who campaigned for John Connally against Don Yarborough, commented in a column in the Houston Informer, “With the current tendency of white voters to desert the Democratic Party, especially in Dallas County, it is near stupidity for any candidate or local party to ignore the Negro voting power.” Texas Republicans, in executive committee session in Dallas, unanimously agreed to bid for the 1964 G.O.P. presidential convention, implicitly for Houston. Should that materialize, the ramifications for conservative Texas Democrats might be appalling. Albert Fay, the Texas G.O.P. national committeeman, announced his support for Goldwater for president as the party pledged an all-out war on Democrats. Four Texans, Peter O’Donnell, the G.O.P. state chairman of Dallas, Tad Smith of El Paso, former state Republican chairman, Jim Leonard, retiring executive director of the party, and Robert Morris, the ultra-right former president of the University of Dallas, attended a G.O.P. conclave in Chicago to boost Goldwater and stop Rockefeller. Pundit Samuel Lubell noted that the Cox vote for governor “flows along precisely the same channels first cut by Mr. Eisenhower . . . Inside the Texan cities, the vote stratifies along the same income lines that dominate the voting of every Northern city. Where Houston’s well-to-do River Oaks section gave Cox 79 percent of its vote, worker precincts dropped him below 35 percent. Of the 140 Houston precincts carried by Cox, all but four voted Republican for president in 1952, 1956, and 1960.” The Wall Street Journal’s Paul Duke had similar insights about the changing Southern and Texas situation. “The rise of the Republican Party . . . seems sure to doom the Democrats’ traditional domination of Dixie,” he wrote. “. . . The Democratic Party in the South may be transformed from a vehicle for conservatism to one for moderation and liber Texas is the largest of the five American states that still require a poll tax of voters. All five of them ranked within the bottom seventh of the 50 states in voter participation in the national election of two years ago. Texas, with about two out of five eligible voters-43.4 percent casting their ballots, ranked 44th. Every state whose voters were even less active than those in Texas was a Southern state; the four states ranking immediately higher than Texas were all Southern or border states. At the upper end of the scale, three states had 80 percent turnouts; although Texas had two million more adults than Massachusetts, Texas and Massachusetts cast about the same number of votes for president. For an industrializing region with pretensions of progressiveness, this is a humiliating civic record, as more and more Texans are acknowledging. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, duly accepting the voters’ willingness, expressed last May, to abolish the poll tax, suggested earlier this month that state action might forestall federal legislation enforcing such a change. The Houston Post predicted this week that the poll tax will be killed in Texas next year. Sen. Abraham Ka alism . “A Texas pattern may point the way: After years of electing two Democratic senators, the state now has a conservative G.O.P. senator .. . and a liberal Democratic senator . . . As the years go by, more and more conservative Democrats are expected to go over to the Republican camp. . . . [T] he long-term prospect is that Negroes, union forces, and assorted liberals will take over the dominant role of business and farm groups in the Southern Democratic Party. Such a coalition already is showing growing strength in parts of Texas, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Tennessee. . . . [C]onservative Democrats are encountering . . . an increasingly deadly crossfire . . .” The temporary planning committee of the liberal coalition in Texas met in Austin during the last fortnight, but, as usual, in secret. zen of Laredo says he will sponsor the required constitutional amendment. After the poll tax, what? This is the main legislative question that now engages the interest of those who want to affect the structure of Texas politics. A voter registration system will have to be established that is not an issue, assuming the poll tax is abolished. The issue is whether the registration system will or will not encourage maximum voter participation. Specifically, the principal questions are whether voters will be required to register just once, reregistering only if they move or fail to vote in a specified period, or to re-register every year; whether they will have to pay a registration fee in lieu of the poll tax; and whether they will be permitted to register at times closer to elections than the present poll tax deadline, Jan. 31. FOR A DAY OR SO last week, during the hearings of the state election reform committee in the Texas Senate chamber, it appeared that a literacy test for voters might be a possibility for Texas, and some of the East Texas legislators December 13, 1962. 5 After the Poll Tax, What? A Special Report
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