Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst considers the legislative session a "success" but also says he regrets the failure of a voter identification bill that split his chamber along partisan lines.
"I was disappointed we did not get a voter ID program out there," said Dewhurst, who asserted there is evidence of "thousands and thousands and thousands" of noncitizens voting in Texas. "This is a no-brainer."
What David Dewhurst is doing is selling the idea that Democrats are stealing elections from Republicans. That's been the subtext throughout this debate. It all goes back to the Heflin-Vo election contest, when the equally reprehensible and irresponsible Andy Taylor made the same wild and phony charges, none of which he came close to substantiating. This has become an article of faith among Republicans. It's pathetic.
It's interesting, too, how voter ID has suddenly become this great crusade for Dewhurst. Voter ID came up in the 79th Lege, too (thanks to the odious Mary Denny), and it was ultimately killed by Senate Democratic unity, which prevented the original bill from coming up for debate on the floor, a filibuster threat, and a last-minute point of order, both also in the Senate. Read through those blog posts and notice whose name is conspicuously absent in the stories that were reported at the time - David Dewhurst. It's only now, in his third
term legislative session as Lieutenant Governor, that he's noticed this allegedly massive crisis and gone into By Any Means Necessary mode to deal with it. What's different this time around? David Dewhurst is now running for Governor, and he has to plan for a contested Republican primary. And so he adopts Tina Benkiser's pet cause as his own.
By the way, since it seems to go unmentioned every time this accursed subject comes up (and I'm as bad about this as anyone), we already require voters to bring identification to the polling places with them. It's called their voter's registration card. What "voter ID" bills like HB218 claim is that this isn't good enough any more. Apparently, all these years we've been doing it wrong.
All of this would be little more than extra incentive for electing more Democrats to the Lege in 2008 if it weren't for the possibility that Dewhurst will get another opportunity to cram these measures through. And there's Sylvester Turner calling for a special session, which is exactly the opportunity Dewhurst would need. Remember, thanks to the 2003 editions, we already have a precedent of no blocker bill in the Senate for a special, which means that a simple majority would suffice to get the bill out of that chamber. But even if Dewhurst failed to invoke that, do we really want to put Mario Gallegos in the position of having to risk his life for another 30 days to keep this at bay? Nothing good can come out of this.
I realize that Turner is calling for a special for other purposes. I'm sure the legislation he wants to bring up again would do some good, even if I have doubts about its genesis. But Sylvester Turner doesn't get to control the agenda for a special session. Governor Perry does, and if you think he wouldn't add voter ID to the call, you're not living in the real world. And it wouldn't just be voter ID, either, but other noxious bills that died on the clock last month - the Shapiro/Patrick anti-abortion bills, Jackson's anti-clean air SB1317, and who knows what else. Is it really worth the cost of seeing those bills pass? I can't see how.
Please. No special session. Make David Dewhurst fight this battle again in 2009, hopefully on less friendly turf for his side. It's much harder to undo bad legislation (*cough* *cough* Trans Texas Corridor *cough* *cough*) than it is to keep it from becoming law in the first place. Don't make it any easier for this piece of bad legislation.
UPDATE: Minor error fixed regarding Dewhurst's time in office. Thanks to Evan for the catch.Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 01, 2007 to That's our Lege