More on Day One of the House hearings on voter ID
House Elections Committee Chair Todd Smith is full of ennui at how things have gone so far.
Throughout today's proceedings, Chairman Todd Smith, R-Bedford, has repeatedly insisted that he is "unimpressed," and even on one occasion, "fabulously unimpressed," with both sides of the debate.
"Both sides are guilty of speculating without any substantiating evidence that this has any impact on turnout at all one way or the other," Smith said.
Upon which side Smith believes the burden of proof falls has yet to be established, though past statements indicate that it might not matter.
Regardless, the show Smith is currently running on the House side is markedly different from the Senate's handling of Voter ID, which left many witnesses unable to testify. The decision to break the testimony up into two days will undoubtedly allow more to have their voices heard. The discussion also seems to have taken on a more productive tone.
"It is encouraging that, in the House, some members of both parties seem interested in considering reforms targeted at access and turnout in addition to security," says Dustin Rynders of Advocacy, Inc., which advocates for the legal rights of disabled Texans. "This more comprehensive approach was completely absent in the Senate debate."
Well, I can think of a way in which we could have avoided boring Rep. Smith. But here we are having the hearing anyway.
According to RG Ratcliffe, it'll be a little while before any bills come to the floor.
Elections Chairman Todd Smith, R-Euless, said he does not expect his committee to vote on the bill until sometime in the next week or two.
Smith said he hopes to add language to the bill that would delay implementation for two years to educate the public about the need to have identification to vote. He said that change might win him enough votes to get this bill out of the House.
That's as may be, but it'll take a lot more than that to keep said bill from being harmful. I'll say it again, if anyone who's pushing this is serious about wanting to mitigate the effects, including same-day registrations in the final bill would be a big step in the right direction.
I see in that story that one of the witnesses testifying was Diane Trautman, who made an unsuccessful attempt to oust Paul Bettencourt last year as Tax Assessor before he decided to traipse off to greener pastures. She sent me a copy of her testimony, which I've posted as a Google document. I'm glad to see her hit back at Bettencourt, who was a tireless promoter of voter fraud myths, for his office's shamefully sloppy handling of voter registrations last year. Check it out.
Today is the day for public testimony, so anyone who gave up before the Senate allnighter got around to that has a second chance to speak up. And believe it or not, there are other committee hearings going on in this shortened week, including one by Appropriations on the Senate budget bill.
Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 07, 2009 to That's our Lege
Count me as one more who is very much involved with and concerned over matters of vote-suppression and election integrity. I have testified often on these matters in Austin, but I am not there, invited or not, now. I, too, am "unimpressed" with the debate over "Voter ID". Here is why:
First, it is "Punch & Judy", Sturm und Drang -- a GOP "litmus test" that has elicited Democratic "grandstanding" and melodramatic press coverage.
But, no lobbies, no concessions, no bureaucracies, no deals, no donors, no incumbents, ... nothing the the Lege truly cares about is at risk.
Second, the debate is neatly framed as legal argument rather than serious legislative deliberation -- sort of a moot-court.
Experts are brought in from as far away as possible to testify over hypothetical threats and symbolic responses without digging deep or revealing much more than what the quasi-litigants already know or believe. "Voter ID" is talked to death, "Real ID" is hardly mentioned, the underlying "ID Divide" in our society is not mentioned at all. The "Seven Laws of Identity" in the digital era are ... huh? "Too Technical!"
Third, neither fundamental questions between two parties in Texas -- universal suffrage or a property-qualified franchise -- nor the disconnect between Art. VI of the Texas Constitution and mumbo jumbo in the Texas Election Code manifesting that divide are addressed.
That debate would expose the whole enterprise of bi-partisan concession-tending and lower the public reputation of the Lege even further, if such a thing can be imagined.
Fourth and finally, practical political questions of likely effects on the rate of or bias in political participation before or after the proposed change are not illuminated because they are shocking and surprising. Both parties in Texas are perfectly happy punting those matters to the federal DoJ, so they can focus exclusively on gerrymandering.
"Turnout" seems to be Todd Smith's ostensible interest, but not a concern he seeks to offer an honest remedy to. He knows exactly what sort of side-show he is running and is clearly bored with it.
Voter ID -- reliable authentication of citizenship and rapid qualification of ballots -- is as important as most people, including this blog, and I think it is.
It was from the git-go. That would be the Texian-Mexican War of Indpendence resolved this month down around La Porte -- a murderous battle, not a moot court. And, it still is here in the digital era where people spend half or all the rest of their lives in jail because they were mis-identified, where hundreds of thousands of voters vanish between primary and general elections, and where tens of thousands of eligible voters are rejected or disqualified by an election management "system", and so on. Is that "Too Technical" or just inconvenient for the Lege.
Oh, did I mention, that almost all of the state's computer systems are part of a billion-dollar completely f**ked-up contract in Austin involving the DPS and the Secretary of State?
Thankfully, our bi-partisan political elite in Austin are going to lecture and educate the rest of us down here in Houston based on everything they are learning from hearing ... only what they want to hear and are prepared to do nothing masquerading as something about. If we were impressed with their proficiency, we might even be inspired by their sincerity. But, ... probably not.