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Voter ID trial, day one

And they’re off, with the state bringing the funny math as part of its case.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

A Justice Department lawyer, Elizabeth Westfall, argued that the law has the potential to prevent 1.4 million Texans from voting who are eligible but lack the required photo identification — a disproportionate number of them minorities.

Previewing the case the federal government will lay out during the five-day trial, she asserted that the law was enacted over the unified opposition of state lawmakers who represent minority constituents; that it was highly unusual for the state Senate to set aside a rule requiring 2/3 support before bringing a bill to the floor; and that the new law purports to address a problem that is not widespread, in a way that wouldn’t actually curb vote fraud.


Brian Ingram, director of the Texas Secretary of State’s election division since January and, before that, a top aide to Gov. Rick Perry who oversaw the governor’s judicial appointments, was the state’s first witness.

He offered testimony intended to illustrate many cracks in the state’s voter registration system that beg for new tools to deter fraudulent voting.

For instance, he told the court, in 54 counties, the number of registered voters is 90 percent of the number of eligible voters, according to census data. Of those, 18 counties actually have more voters registered than eligible voters — suggesting vastly bloated rolls. In tiny Loving County, the rate is roughly 157 percent, probably because children move to Dallas or other parts of Texas but return home to vote; Judge Rosemary M. Collyer, was amused to learn that the county’s election official also wears hats as sheriff and county clerk but seemed unimpressed in terms of proving the need for the state ID law.

Since Sept. 1, Ingram testified, Texas has purged 394 foreign nationals from its voter database, by comparing lists of people who got out of jury duty by claiming they weren’t U.S. citizens.

He also testified that he and his wife show up in the state’s voter database in both in their home county of Williamson, and in Travis County, where they used to live.

And he said, “We believe 239 folks voted in the most recent election who were dead.” Those cases from the May 29 primary, he said, will soon be referred to the state attorney general’s office for investigation and possible prosecution.

Note those numbers, 394 and 239. As the story notes at the end, Texas right now has 13,196,388 registered voters. Therefore, in almost a year’s time, the Secretary of State has trimmed the rolls by 0.0003% by removing those alleged foreign nationals. That isn’t even rounding error. As for the supposed “dead” voters, there are allegations like this made every year in every state, and they generally turn out to be completely unfounded. There are lots of reasons why this happen. Many names are shared by multiple people. Go Google your own name, as it appears on your drivers license and/or voter registration card, and see how unique you really are. Clerical errors happen – names get misspelled, the wrong voter gets credited for having voted, and so forth. It’s even the case that sometimes people who vote early or via absentee ballot die after they vote but before Election Day. I guarantee you that when that “239 dead voters” claim is investigated in more detail, 95%+ will turn out to be nothing. If this is the best the state has, it’s pathetic. And again, even if it were all true, it’s a speck compared to the hundreds of thousands of people who would be disenfranchised by this ridiculous and unnecessary law. To put it in provocative terms, it’s like passing an extremely strict gun control law on the grounds that some people use guns to commit murder. I can’t wait to see what comes next. The Trib has more.

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  1. mollusk says:

    10 – 4 on undead voters. Amex kills me off fairly routinely, confusing me with my late father, and thereby messing up my credit.

  2. WS says:

    More to the point, even if you assume those instances are the result of fraud, voter ID wouldn’t stop them. The same ID could be used in different counties, and foreign nationals can get driver’s licenses. And if I wanted to cast a dead man’s ballot, I’d vote by mail, where the ID law wouldn’t find me either.