Part II of the Very Bad Day At The Lege happened when the “compromise” version of HB626 passed out of the House yesterday. I’m going to hand off to Eye on Williamson for a minute, as he hits the main points about this:
One of my first impressions of this bill is that if we’re going to invest all these NEW powers in the Secretary of State (SOS), this office must become an elected office and NOT stay as a political appointment by the governor.
That being said we now have to look forward to the proposition of the SOS hiring a bunch of new staff to perform this operation or, low and behold, they outsource/privatize this to somebody’s brother in-law’s IT company, which will fudge up our voter rolls just like happened in Florida in 2000.
Best case with this bill is that whatever “fraud” it purports to fix – and there’s very little, if any, evidence that it does, and if it did this NEW law grandfathers in anyone that’s already on the rolls fraudulently – it opens up a whole new huge can-of-worms. That can is verifying voters citizenship which leaves new registrants open to having their registrations disallowed due to partisan politics, computer error, or malice.
Part of the problem is noted in the Dallas Morning News story:
[Oppenents] argued that the state has no reciprocity agreements with other states’ birth-certificate and naturalization databases and that trying to cross-check millions of voters against numerous lists like Social Security and driver’s license records would produce too many errors.
So first, we’re giving an awful lot more power to the unelected office of Secretary of State. Second, we’ll need to increase the size of the SOS’ office, just to handle the bureaucracy of verifying voters’ citizenship, which they may not be able to do effectively because it depends in part on how every other state handles birth records. And third, all this expanded government (would someone please enlighten me as to how this is “conservative”?) is being done to eliminate a type of fraud that is barely a blip on the radar, while at the same time granting amnesty to any actually fraudulent voters who may currently be registered. Did I miss anything? Oh, yeah, it’s still not clear how much this will cost and how it will be funded. Isn’t this fun?
Meanwhile, HB218 moves over to the Senate where the health of Sen. Mario Gallegos will be crucial.
All 11 Senate Democrats are needed to block the bill from coming to the floor for debate, where the Republican majority will easily pass it.
“I’ll be here,” Gallegos promised Tuesday from the Senate floor, where he put in a full day against the advice of his doctor.
Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst promised to give Gallegos 24-hours notice before the bill hits the Senate floor — but only once, and that came Tuesday.
There won’t be another notification should the bill be delayed today.
Senate Democrats say that if House Bill 218 is introduced on the floor while Gallegos is in Houston undergoing medical treatment, they’ll filibuster until he can make it back to Austin.
“We’ve got 10 who can filibuster until Mario gets back. Understand that somebody is going to filibuster,” said Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio.
“I think we can talk for 24 hours,” said Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston.
So a showdown over voter identification is guaranteed.
Gallegos was in Austin yesterday. I don’t know where he is today, and I’m not sure when the Senate will take up HB218. All I know is that anyone who thinks of weaseling out at this point will need to explain to every Democrat in the state why he or she wasn’t up to the task in the same way Mario Gallegos was. Stay tuned.