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Voter ID still pending

No hurry, fellas. Seriously, take all the time you want.

Rep. Todd Smith, the Euless Republican who helms the House Committee on Elections, said today he’s still trying to gather the five committee votes he needs to send a voter ID measure to the full House. Smith, you’ll remember, initially said he hoped to win the committee’s sign-off on his approach sometime last week.

Noting that House rules permit members to act on Senate bills for three weeks’ more, Smith said: “We don’t have a gun to our heads. I’m going to give the members of the committee time to get comfortable with a proposal.”

Smith did not confirm that he’s backed off his rewrite of the Senate-approved proposal that circulated last week, though there’s been talk that he’s willing to implement the ID mandate in 2011 rather than 2013 as he suggested last week.

There’s also chatter that Smith is amenable to requiring photo IDs of every voter, one of several principles listed in a letter signed by 71 House Republicans. Under the must-have-a-photo-ID approach, a voter without an ID could still cast a provisional ballot (subject to being counted after regular ballots) by presenting documents indicating her or his identity.

“We all have our preferred route” to a proposal, Smith said. “Everybody is going to have to give a little bit.”

Much as I want this to die, I wonder if the best result is for the GOP-preferred punitive bill to come to the floor, then lose because Reps. Tommy Merritt and Delwyn Jones vote against it. That may be the result the gives the most discouragement to it coming up again in a special session. Dying in committee may suggest to Governor Perry that all he needed was more time, not more votes. Just a thought.

Meanwhile, the League of Women Voters and five other non-partisan advocacy groups released a document (PDF) that outlined their preferred approach to election reform.

Problems that need addressing:

1. Texas was 46th in voter turnout by voter eligible population in the 2008 general election. Only Hawaii, West Virginia, Utah and Arkansas had a lower voter turnout than Texas.
2. Texas has the highest number of recent violations under the Voting Rights Act.
3. Rejection rates for provisional ballots for Texas are among the highest in the country.
4. Advocacy groups report a significant number of instances of poll workers not following existing election law on provisional ballots and ID requirements but Texas doesn’t have an adequate method of reporting and dealing with these issues.
5. Hispanic registration rates are significantly lower than white-non-Hispanic registration rates in Texas.
6. Despite the mistaken belief that many voters are not eligible to vote, there is virtually no evidence of voting by non-citizens or voter impersonation.

Principles for addressing these issues:

1. Register all eligible Texas voters and make sure their votes get counted accurately.
2. Protect the rights of all Texas voters from deceptive practices that intimidate voters or provide false information about voting.
3. Encourage all eligible Texans to participate in all Texas elections.
4. Provide avenues to identify, report, investigate and resolve election issues.
5. Prosecute cases of voter and election fraud.
6. Substantive changes in voting policies, including any change in identification requirements, must be accompanied by a robust and multifaceted public and poll worker education campaign.

Good luck with that. Link via Vaqueros and Wonkeros.

UPDATE: A new draft bill made the rounds, with some concessions such as a 2011 implementation date but also some hardlining, as all non-photo forms of ID were removed as acceptable for casting a non-provisional ballot. Dems were not happy and circulated a letter demanding more hearings, which Rep. Smith was not inclined to do. Republicans aren’t that happy with this, either, and so no committee vote was held today. Postcards has the most comprehensive take on it, but see also Texas Politics, Elise Hu, and Rep. Pena.

UPDATE: Floor Pass has a more thorough analysis of what’s wrong with the “compromise” bill.

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2 Comments

  1. Charles,

    That the GOP wants and needs to keep Texas “46th in voter turnout” according to the LWV is not surprising and quite rational for them. After all, their “majority” is an actual minority which, however, they propose to represent well by maintaining their own discipline, avoiding compromise with Democratic public officials over anything but petty matters, and, thereby, deceiving and demoralizing Democratic voters.

    The problem with Democrats is that our self-perpetuating public office-squatters are perfectly happy with the safe seats the GOP has drawn for them or, in the case of the party establishment, more interested in protecting petty patronage from bi-partisan concession-tending than than in competing robustly.

    Consider the Democratic Party’s contribution to problems noted by the LWV:

    1. Register all eligible Texas voters and make sure their votes get counted accurately.

    State, county, and especially municipal public and party officials have consistently supported deployment of DRE voting machines and voter registration technology funded under the HAVA law and provided by the Hart company. This is despite objections by party workers or by professional and scientific authorities, as well as the obvious sophistication and concerns of actual voters in these matters.

    The Texas Democratic Party is still habituated to the Jim Crow coalition it used to dominate and more interested in gerrymandering a small electorate than in building a popular majority.

    2. Protect the rights of all Texas voters from deceptive practices that intimidate voters or provide false information about voting.

    While the party has filed a number of lawsuits, these are essentially protests over the outcome of particular campaigns. Significant litigation in state court over constitutional voting rights of all citizens is being boycotted by the state party establishment.

    3. Encourage all eligible Texans to participate in all Texas elections.

    The GOP identifies its voters and facilitates their voting. The Democratic party appeals to market segments and categories of likely voters. It does not have or want the technologies for identifying, registering, and mobilizing unlikely voters that have been used in other ex-Confederate states to get out of a historic pattern of economic or even racial discrimination.

    4. Provide avenues to identify, report, investigate and resolve election issues.

    Party volunteers actually attempt this, but Democratic party and public officials ignore or squealch them, claiming they are powerless or that such matters are really a problem for federal officials, you know John Tanner, Alberto Gonzales, and so on.

    5. Prosecute cases of voter and election fraud.

    There were 1,500 indications of voter fraud in the 2008 Democratic Primary that were quickly hushed-up by the Democratic Party Chairman anxious to avoid conflict with Rush Limbaugh. Other GOP officials laughingly blamed the whole thing on the Obama campaign.

    6. Substantive changes in voting policies, including any change in identification requirements, must be accompanied by a robust and multifaceted public and poll worker education campaign.

    Actually, the GOP does these studies and conducts such education and training in order to enforce official vote-suppression efforts. Democratic public officials pay them to do this and raise no objection. Democratic party officials wring their hands in public but do nothing controversial or substantial with their own office to counter it.

    Basicially, the GOP knows it has fewer votes and treats their voters with respect and care. Democrats deal with voters inefficiently through intermediaries or condescendingly as clients, not as sovereigns. These habits and attitudes are highly dysfunctional on our part. They are really the only advantage the GOP has in Harris Counthy today.

  2. cb says:

    There is no reason Texas should not be a blue state right now except for the fact that the democratic party is self destructive. Organize! Organize! Offer free democratic party voter ids. Put petty issues aside and we will be through with Republican party control. The Republican party is out of touch and in decline and the sooner we boot them the better.