March 11, 2009
Voter ID: On to day two

Looks like things wrapped up in the Senate at about 2:30 AM. It's not clear to me if they got through all of the expert testimony, or if they plan to get to the public testimony, assuming anyone who signed up to speak yesterday bothers to come back today. Elise says the Senate will take their first vote on SB362 today, and I'll join her out on that limb in predicting passage by a 19-12 margin.

The last witness of the evening, from the Harris County Tax Assessor's office, was the first to make any concrete claim of voter impersonation actually occurring, based on a report earlier this year from Texas Watchdog that said dead people had voted in 2008 and in some cases before. I don't know why the Rs wouldn't have led off with this guy, since if nothing else that might have gotten his testimony into today's papers, but whatever. (Maybe they didn't want to rehash the allegations that the Tax Assessor's office spent a lot of time this year rejecting legitimate voter registration applications.) No cases have been prosecuted, so it's a little hard to judge the evidence. It seems to me this is more an illustration of identity theft than anything else, and if so then the perpetrators, who did have to show some form of identification to cast those votes, would likely have been able to produce a photo ID as well. It's not like nobody's ever done that before. Even if you accept all this as incontrovertible, the point would still remain that far more legitimate voters would be denied than illegitimate ones would be deterred. Which is still what all this has always been about.

Anyway, we may see the end of this spectacle for today, though I presume there would still be subsequent votes in the Senate - I don't think they can do all three readings in one day. Then we get to do it all over again in the House. Yippee.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 11, 2009 to That's our Lege

Ed Johnson, from the Tax Office, is not authoritative for this claim. Such a claim as he makes should come from the Clerk's Office, if it is to be considered reliable evidence.

In fact, a post-election reconciliation of the voter roll with the marked poll list frequently comes up with false positive indications of both "double-voting" and "dead people voting". These usually arise from a clerical-error in the voter registration process -- people who are very much alive, for instance -- or -- more often -- evidence that the wrong record with a same name was marked in error during voting.

During the exhaustive 2004 "Vo/Heflin Contest", there was evidence of negligence on the part of the Tax Office and GOP "dirty tricks" during a previous election. There were no indications of "dead people voting" or of "voter impersonation".

During the March 2008 Democratic Primary Election there were significant indications of voting in both party primaries, possibly as a result of another GOP "dirty trick" operation. And, the County Clerk made a criminal investigation referral. But, nothing has come of it.

Where there are indications of felonious voting in an election, the County Clerk's Office -- not the Tax Office -- makes a referral to the DA after a careful "chain-of-error" investigation. Such investigation usually comes up with error on the part of registration or election clerks, not "voter impersonation".

The voter registration system in Harris County is very large. It is maintained secretly, so there is really no way to say objectively how unreliable the system is or how biased its custodians are. What is clear is that some in the Tax Office make politically biased claims that do not bear up under rigorous scrutiny.

Posted by: John Robert BEHRMAN on March 11, 2009 9:31 AM
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