May 23, 2007
Dewhurst gives up the pursuit of HB218


It appears the Legislature will not pass a voter identification bill that Republicans desire and Democrats loath as Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst sent ailing Sen. Mario Gallegos home Wednesday night.

Gallegos, recovering from a liver transplant and potentially in danger of his body rejecting the replacement, has stayed in the Capitol despite his doctors' advice to remain in Houston.

The Democratic lawmaker is the swing vote in determining whether the bill comes up for debate.

"I sent Mario home," Dewhurst told reporters.

That means the lieutenant governor has no plans to call up the contentious legislation. Doing so would certainly trigger a filibuster by Democrats and kill scores of bills.

The Senate must tentatively approve House bills by midnight. Legislation that doesn't pass before the deadline is dead.

Thank you, Lt. Gov. Dewhurst. Sen. Gallegos thanks you as well.

He said he wasn't going to do it, but the emotion of the evening got the better of him.

Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Houston asked for and received a personal privilege to stand and thank Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and the Senate for agreeing not to consider the Voter ID bill.

"As a human being to another human being, I appreciate it, I don't mind telling you," Gallegos said.


Gallegos said he was sincerely moved by the consideration shown him by a Senate that last week was angrily split over House Bill 218, which would require voters to present identification before casting ballots.

"I'll be back and if you want to fight this battle again, we'll fight it, but with a healthy Mario Gallegos," he said, before receiving a standing ovation.

That is the most-deserved standing O of the year. Sen. Gallegos, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for all you did this session. Enjoy all the yellow roses that have been sent.

For posterity, here's Sen. Gallegos' op-ed on voter ID and why he chose to stand and fight. I'm reprinting it beneath the fold for future reference.

Why right to vote, without an ID, is worth fighting for This lawmaker counts his grandmother among reasons


In my community in Houston, thousands of first- and second-generation Americans came of age in the "greatest generation." They volunteered to protect our freedom in World War II. Many who came home had to fight to build a life for their families and exercise the rights they earned with their blood and tears.

As a firefighter, I was trained to protect their lives and property. As a state senator today, it's the least I can do to honor their sacrifices by being in Austin to protect their right to vote.

Every nonpartisan, academic study on the impact of voter ID laws in other states shows they suppress voter turnout among the elderly, low-income citizens, Hispanics, African-Americans and the disabled. But I don't need a study to know why voter ID proposals like House Bill 218 are bad; I just have to think about my grandmother.

My grandmother came from Mexico, played by the rules, became a citizen and earned her right to vote. She didn't have a driver's license, but she had her voter registration card, went to the polls where the workers knew her, and voted. If the voter ID law were in effect, I'm not sure she or others like her could have voted.

This year, close to 120 burdensome voter identification proposals were introduced in state legislatures across the nation. Not one of them has passed yet, and I want to make sure Texas isn't the only state to pass one. For many folks, a voter ID requirement doesn't sound like a big deal, but it would prevent many eligible voters from voting. Many elderly voters don't have a driver's license. Others who are disabled or work two jobs don't have the time, money or ability to get an ID card or documents they would need to vote. And new voter ID requirements would create confusion and long lines at the polls that would discourage many from voting.

When more people vote for American Idol contestants than vote for president, we should make it easier for people to vote, not harder. Voter ID proponents say it's necessary to combat "voter fraud" and raise the specter of "illegal aliens" voting, but no one has documented a single case of "voter impersonation" that HB 218 would solve. And common sense tells us noncitizens are not going to risk deportation by voting.

The bottom line is that voter ID is about politics, not fraud. In a 2004 election contest for a Harris County state House seat, a Texas House committee chaired by a conservative Republican found charges that hundreds of noncitizens voted were false. The Bush Justice Department's "Voting Access and Integrity Initiative," which directed U.S. attorneys to prioritize alleged voter fraud cases, resulted in only 24 convictions from 2002 to 2005. And the U.S. Election Assistance Commission found "that the accusations regarding widespread fraud are unjustified."

Voter ID laws passed in Georgia and Missouri were struck down by the courts, which concluded that the cost of obtaining the ID and necessary documents amounts to a 21st century poll tax.

In my community, there are veterans and people like my grandmother who earned their right to vote and shouldn't be forced to pay the modern day version of a poll tax. They are the real heroes in this story. I'm in Austin because it's my job to protect their right to vote.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 23, 2007 to That's our Lege