May 15, 2005
Who killed HB166?

In one of my previous posts lamenting the sorry state of the House Elections Committee and its overlord, Mary Denny, I talked about how they could be a force for good if they chose by considering bills that would add voter-verifiable paper trails to the process. Four such bills existed this session, two with Democratic sponsors and two with Republicans in the lead. None of them will get a vote on the House floor. Sonia Santana considers the case of one such bill:

HB 166 died in the Texas House Legislature on Thursday May 12, 2005. HB 166 was our best attempt at a verified paper ballot trail for Texas this session.

The original bill filed by Rep. Aaron Pena (D-Edinburg) was amended in the Elections Committee by Chairwoman Mary Denny (R-Flower Mound) to the point it was simply a study bill. We can't proceed too slowly on this issue in Texas for Rep. Denny's tastes.

Despite the fact the bill was pretty uncontroversial by the time it reached the Calendars Committee, the powers that be, still could not risk their perceived loss of power. The bill had bi-partisan support with 4 Republicans on board including Mary Denny on the committee substitute version, and still it was quietly killed in Calendars with no vote scheduled on the floor.

Thursday was the last day bills in the House needed to be listed on Calendars for a vote this week. HB 166 never made the cut.

There's a villain to this story, but we don't know who it is. Rep. Pena picks it up from there.

It is quite astonishing we got as far as we did before someone (no one quite knows who) pulled the plug on a bill that would have served the interests of each and every Texan. As she noted in her post, this was a bi-partisan effort of Republicans and Democrats.

The best argument anyone could come up with against it was: where are we going to get the money? With fate on our side $100 million dollars was made available to Texas, the night before the committee hearing.

The committee hearing had the Republican and Democratic grassroots singing kumbaya at the presentation of the bill. Other Republican colleagues with similar bills dropped theirs and signed on to ours. Every indication was that this bill was going to make it to the floor for a vote.

Then came the invisible hand, the gutting and eventual death of the bill. No one seems to know whose hand it was that carried the knife that killed HB 166. They did not have sufficient honor to reveal themselves.

The $100 million in federal HAVA funds will most likely be spent before this issue will be visited again. I lament that the powerful can ignore the will of the citizenry and be so bold to do so publicly. They were not even interested in studying the issue!

I can only say to those who lack honor, that the passion and desire of many will not be expired by the powerful few who wish to extinguish it. We will continue in quiet, the hard necessary work to once again bring confidence to our electoral system.

For now, it is sufficient that we give thanks to our friends, like Sonia, for their dedication to this issue.

While this issue isn't going away, neither is this likely to get attached as an amendment to some other bill. I do not currently subscribe to the notion that elections have been altered through electronic voting fraud, but I do believe it's just a matter of time before someone tries it. Even without that, we've already seen cases where vote records have been lost forever due to equipment failure. I really fail to see why some form of redundancy, something which would be a no-brainer requirement for any private-sector project, is at all controversial. I hope we don't have to have a catastrophic failure before we can address this in a serious manner, but I'm worried that we will.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 15, 2005 to That's our Lege | TrackBack

What makes you confident that electronic election fraud hasn't already occurred? The incentive is always present, they have the means (no paper trail) and they have the motivation (grab total power and block any reversal).

It doesn't take a world of 100% electronic voting to make a hidden thumb on the scale decisive. All it takes is some close elections.

Posted by: Demo Memo on May 16, 2005 5:54 PM