As the issue of Voter ID moves to the Texas House we have to be aware that the facts haven’t changed only the game has changed. This post from the Brennan Center for Justice, Voter ID & The Divide, puts this issue in proper perspective.
Countless pundits have suggested that the last two months have derailed President Obama’s plans to lead the country into a post-partisan era, but whether or not bipartisanship ever comes to Washington, D.C., one thing’s for certain: when it comes to the state legislatures, don’t hold your breath waiting for the demise of partisan politics—especially when it comes to election issues the parties think they can exploit to political advantage. That lesson’s been proved again and again over the last few weeks as state legislators across the country have debated strict voter identification laws.
Across the country, the parties are following this script closely, with Republican lawmakers pulling out all the stops to enact strict voter ID rules, and Democrats digging in to prevent disenfranchisement of poor, elderly and minority voters.
If state lawmakers want to address the real problems with our elections systems, they should concentrate on modernizing our outdated system of voter registration, not spending precious legislative resources debating voter ID policies that disenfranchise vulnerable citizens—and do nothing to stop fraud.
The only reason lawmakers can have for fighting about voter ID when real problems are costing millions of Americans the right to vote is because they like having voter ID around as a politically divisive “ wedge issue” they can exploit to partisan advantage.
That’s no justification at all.
As the rightfully point out most of the problems with voting fraud, is registration, and who is kept on the voter rolls. That responsibility lies with the county elections offices in Texas. But often times those county offices are vastly understaffed, and overworked. There are also laws for how, exactly, a person can be removed from a voter roll.
But, no matter where the problem actually lies, the GOP led lege appears to be ready to move ahead with their Voter ID legislation. As Kuff points out there is a compromise proposal affoot, The Heflin plan for voter ID, which brings up many interesting points about the “single most important issue facing Texas today.
The “phase-in” idea, which was also floated by David Dewhurst leads one to wonder just how much some of the Republicans believe their own rhetoric if they go for this. I mean, if you truly believe that elections are being stolen left and right because of swarms of voter impersonators, would you find a waiting period before implementing the solution you claim will stamp it out to be acceptable? Either this is the single most important issue facing Texas today or it isn’t. Phillip, who notes that by Rep. Todd Smith’s own admission, voter ID is really about creating a wedge issue, asks the same question.
Exempting voters over the age of 65 sounds nice, and would solve some of the problems of disenfranchisement. It’s just that by enacting such an exemption, you’re stipulating to the disenfranchisement problem, which the Republicans have adamantly denied. And given that one reason why some people have a hard time getting state-issued ID is that they don’t have their original birth certificates (some folks, who were born at home, never had them), how are we going to ensure that those who are eligible for the exemption, and only those who are eligible, receive it?
Putting photos on voter registration cards is a nice idea, and might have avoided this whole stupid issue had we been doing that all along. But how exactly are we going to do that? Will everyone have to go to their county’s voter registrar office to get a photo taken? If we just use existing driver’s license or state ID photos for voter reg cards, what about the folks who don’t have them? That’s what Democrats have been complaining about all along. And how much would this cost?
Speaking of which, does anyone really believe that the party that doesn’t want to fully fund the unemployment insurance trust (among many other things) is going to want to put up an appropriate amount of coinage to pay for ID cards and expanded voter education and registration efforts? Remember, officially SB362 has no fiscal note, meaning that “no significant fiscal implication to the State is anticipated”. Even if we managed to create some pool of money for this, we have a pretty lousy track record of late in ensuring that the funds collected go to the purpose for which they were intended. I see this as a huge trap.
Other than all that, of course, I think this is a reasonable idea. Again, I don’t blame Rep. Heflin for trying. I just don’t see how he can succeed, at least on the terms of the debate as they have been advanced so far.
Yes, it would seem odd for the GOP to agree to phase in a law, for such an important issue. But maybe they think they can still get by without in in 2010, but by 2014 they’ll need it to stay in power?
One of EOW’s main contentions all along has been that this bill would do nothing to stop impersonation fraud on election day if it existed. And it wouldn’t force anyone to show a picture ID. tate Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, explains that in his letter printed in the AAS.
The legislation allows voters who do not have a photo ID to instead present two forms of nonphoto identification such as a utility bill or government correspondence.
While some Democrats are cautiously optimistic about a compromise, there is one thing that would be worthwhile, if as Kuffner says, we “try to mitigate the inevitable damage” a Voter ID bill could do. That would be same-day Voter Registration all the way up through Election Day. Along with some help for local elections offices to keep their voter rolls current. Not only should we be concerned with making sure the right person is voting, but we should also be working to make it easier for everyone who’s eligible to vote to register and get to the polls on election day.
[UPDATE]: The GOP shows just how far their willing to go to get this issue through with a sneak attack, via QR.
Betty Brown files voter ID amendment to HB71, Corte’s overseas military vote bill
Rep. Betty Brown (R-Terrell) has filed her voter ID bill as an amendment [.pdf] to Frank Corte’s (R-San Antonio) HB71. The caption for HB71 reads,”Relating to the establishment of a program to provide a ballot by electronic mail to military personnel serving overseas and their spouses and dependents residing overseas.”
On its face, the amendment does not appear germane to the caption but it will one of the first test of Speaker Joe Straus’ management of contentious issues.
Who would have guessed Republicans would try and sneak Voter ID onto a bill regarding ballots for military personnel? They’re shameless.