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Dan Patrick gets all hysterical about voting by mail

Poor Dan. You know how emotional he gets. Could someone get him a nice cup of chamomile tea, to help him calm down a bit? Thanks.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Friday said that efforts to expand mail-in voting during the coronavirus amount to a “scam by Democrats to steal the election” and claimed that people under 65 are at more risk of dying in a car wreck on the way to vote than they are from dying from the coronavirus because they voted in person.

“There is no reason — capital N, capital O — no reason that anyone under 65 should be able to say I am afraid to go vote,” Patrick, a Republican, said in an interview with Fox News. “Have they been to a grocery store? Have they been to Walmart? Have they been to Lowe’s? Have they been to Home Depot? Have they been anywhere? Have they been afraid to go out of their house? This is a scam by the Democrats to steal the election.”

Texas has been locked in a legal fight over whether it has to expand who is eligible to vote by mail during the coronavirus pandemic. Multiple groups have sued the state, saying it’s dangerous to require people to wait in line and cast ballots on machines shared with other voters while the virus is spreading. GOP state officials have opposed the effort, however, saying that mail-in voting is vulnerable to fraud.

Patrick repeated those worries about fraud on Friday, while also dismissing any fears people might have about going to the polls if they aren’t eligible for a mail-in ballot. Patrick noted that the vast majority of people dying from the virus are older. Currently in Texas, anyone 65 or older or with a disability is eligible for a ballot.

“This idea that we want to give you a disability claim because I am afraid to go vote — if you are under 65 — is laughable,” Patrick said. “You have more chance of being in a serious auto accident if you are under 65 on the way to vote than you do from catching the virus and dying from it on the way to voting. This is the greatest scam ever.”

Texas does not have complete data for the ages of the 1,440 people who have died in the state from the virus. But the state has completed fatality investigations for 489 of those deaths, and about 29% of those were people confirmed to be under 65.

In addition, public health experts are encouraging people of all ages to limit their social interactions. While older people are generally at more risk of dying from the virus, young people can transmit it and endanger people of all ages.

You may recall, Dan Patrick said there were more important things than living and that senior citizens should be willing to die for the economy. So maybe he’s not the best judge of what one’s risk appetite should be.

It’s easy to mock Dan “Menace II Grandma” Patrick, and we all should do it on a regular basis because he is ridiculous. But we should also look at his words and try to understand what he’s really saying. Whether he meant to or not, there are three things that he made clear from this little outburst.

First, there’s no actual justification for the 65-and-over qualification. It’s completely arbitrary, and Patrick doesn’t even try to defend it. It’s there because that’s the number lawmakers picked when they wrote the law. If someone did press Patrick on this point, I’m sure he’d have little to offer beyond some form of “that’s just the way it is”. The federal age-discrimination lawsuit hasn’t had a response from the state yet, and I’ll be very interested to see what justification they come up with. My guess is they won’t bother to try to justify it, they’ll instead simply claim that having an age limit isn’t discriminatory. My point here is that Dan Patrick can’t defend this provision in the law, he can only hide behind it.

Second, there’s the “vote fraud” shibboleth. Forget for a minute that there’s a trivially small amount of actual vote fraud in the system, since statistics and logic mean nothing in this context. I’m old enough to remember when the voter ID bill was passed and the litigation was filed against it. One of the many points of contention over this odious law was the fact that it only applied to in person voting. Voting by mail, which was a smaller component of turnout than it is now and which was much more Republican than it is now (look at the absentee ballot totals for Harris County from 2008 and 2012, for example), was exempted in part because the Republicans who passed the law did not want to burden their own voters, but also because they professed no concerns at all vote vote by mail fraud, even as Democratic legislators and people who testified at the hearings pointed out that most of the handful of vote fraud examples we had centered on mail ballots. The only reason why Republicans are trotting out their “vote fraud!” wolf cries now is because Democrats have gotten better at using vote by mail. That’s what they’re actually afraid of.

And that brings us to point three. The Republicans know they are losing the argument. There was a time when Republicans didn’t care about who was showing up to vote, because they were confident they were going to win all of the elections they wanted to win. They had the lion’s share of the vote – George W. Bush won re-election as Governor in 1998 with 68% of the vote, and he got 62% of the vote as President in 2004 – and they knew it. They have no such assurance today, and they know that, too. All of the big urban counties (save for Tarrant, which is headed that way) are hopelessly Democratic, and now the big suburban counties are slipping away from them. They see their lack of popularity with younger voters and people of color. They’re not going to change what they stand for, so Plan B is to make it harder on all the people they don’t like to vote. This isn’t a revelation, and yes I know what Paul Weyrich was saying back in the 1980s. The difference now is that they really are saying it out loud. They don’t want to make it easier for people to vote, because they fear – with justification – they will lose too many elections if they do. They know people aren’t buying what they’re selling, so they’re trying to restrict the marketplace.

So yes, please do continue mocking Dan “Triggered By Sandra Bullock” Patrick. It’s fun, and he deserves it. But listen to what he’s saying, because he’s telling us what he’s afraid of. Let’s make sure we’re paying close attention to that.

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  1. Manny says:

    There is a slightly larger chance that my mail in vote would not be counted than if I voted in person. This July I will cast my ballot in person.

    Voting is much more essential than eating at a restaurant.

  2. Flypusher says:

    “ claimed that people under 65 are at more risk of dying in a car wreck on the way to vote than they are from dying from the coronavirus because they voted in person.”

    What if that person under 65 is pregnant? Or on chemotherapy? Or has asthma? Or a heart condition? Or diabetes? Or high blood pressure? People who want a mail in ballot should be able to request one anyway, and the fact that a pandemic isn’t reason enough is just more proof that the GOP is beyond redemption.

  3. Jules says:

    Fly, exactly. Or have a person in their home with one of those conditions, or elderly.

    People aren’t people to republicans, just interchangeable cogs in the machine. 100,000 dead? They truly don’t care.

  4. Flypusher says:

    “ Have they been to a grocery store? Have they been to Walmart? Have they been to Lowe’s? Have they been to Home Depot? ”

    Another bit of irony, those businesses give you the option of ordering online and doing curbside pickup if you are concerned about going into the store. I know because I’m currently in my car in an HEB curbside pickup spot.

  5. robert says:

    This vote by mail thing could blow up in our face.

    Republicans cheat and do it well, they don’t feel remorse either.

    Democrats are too busy beating each other up over which of their own candidates aren’t perfect. Once a Republican becomes the nominee, they stand behind whatever turd they put forward.

    Democrats are too lazy or not interested enough to show up to vote or even try to mail fake ballots , republicans will show up to vote and mail in ballots for anyone they think isn’t going to vote.


    Call me an armchair conspiracy theorist if you will, but I see method in the madness. And here is why:

    1. Whether there will be safe and easy mail-in voting in Texas this year will be decided by the JUDICIARY (if not left in electorate-befuddling limbo); — Not by the executive branch, not by a legislative body, not by any political subdivision. That’s there the action is right now: In court, though it’s not yet clear whether the SCOTX or the FIFTH CIRCUIT will rule first. Probably the SCOTX because the Fifth will likely find the ABSTENTION argument rather appealing, or will perhaps even farm out the state-law statutory construction issue (“disability” for mail-ballot-eligibility purposes) to the SCOTX as a certified question. Who knows? The other obvious problem is that the constitutional AGE-DISCRIMINATION argument is rather novel and rather COVID-19-specific. Conservative courts are not necessarily eager to rise to the occasion and take the initiative in fashioning crisis management solutions by developing novel jurisprudence (age-discrimination is conventionally reviewed under a rational-basis test, which is easily met). Rather tellingly, the Solicitor General even urged the SCOTX at oral argument to ignore the amicus briefs by the medical professionals and use dictionaries to construe “disability” instead. That’s what courts are comfortable with. Show us the legal authority, they might ask, for how you want us to treat this novel (!) virus. Go figure: Where is the precedent for that which is unprecedented? Courts are populated with folks you think like lawyers and are – shall be say — cognitively constrained when it comes to crisis management in a very fluid environment where much is unknown and where – well – much is without precedent: This case presents us with an issue of first impression. Blah. Meanwhile, the novelty has already cost the lives of almost 100,000. Judge Biery, who may be an exception, found a suitable Latin phrase for what he was being confronted with: sui generis.

    2. For purposes of constitutional analysis (in federal courts), the AG has to identify the State interest that the challenged provision is designed to serve (whether under the rational-basis test or the compelling state interest standard).

    3. The State asserts ELECTION INTEGRITY as the relevant State interest, and the corresponding need to PREVENT ELECTION FRAUD, to counter the clamoring for liberal construction of TEC § 82.001-004 under current pandemic conditions.

    4. The first problem with this is that the “disability” vote-by-mail provision at issue is not actually a provision to assure election integrity, but one to make voting easier at the risk of a greater potential for voter fraud. The same goes for the other grounds for mail-in-ballot (over 65, being out of state, or in prison). In other words, the LEGISLATURE has already engaged in a BALANCING OF INTERESTS and has concluded that it’s more important to make it easier to vote for people who otherwise could not do so at all or only at risk to their health. So, in order the bolster election integrity as the relevant state interest, the AG has to look elsewhere in the Election Code. As far as I am aware, nobody has yet expressly pointed to this as a problem with the AG’s legal posture. Note what the Solicitor General says in the emergency stay motion in the 5th Circuit: “Yesterday evening, the district court below issued a preliminary injunction preventing Texas officials from enforcing critical ANTI-FRAUD PROVISIONS of the Texas Election Code mere weeks before an election and days before mail-in ballots are distributed to eligible voters.” (EMPHASIS ADDED). He then cites TEC § 82.001-004. But that one is PRO-FRANCHISE, not anti-fraud. On the premise that mail-in voting facilitates fraud, the Legislature has seen fit to tolerate that cost/price to pay, the manifest reason being that the exercise of the franchise is of much greater importance than a slightly increased risk of election fraud, if any. That’s a balance the Legislature has struck, and courts are bound by it, especially those who say time and again that it is not their role to second-guess the wisdom of the legislature and substitute their own policy preferences.

    5. The second problem, which has been addressed in the briefing and in the public discourse is the DARTH OF EVIDENCE (not to mention evidence admissible in court) that mail-in voting is associated with election fraud. The AG has offered virtually NO EVIDENCE of past fraud involving mail-in ballots under the existing TEC provision. In the AG’s briefing “The State of Texas” cites a dated federal report and has 2 footnotes to newspaper articles. So, they are grounding their emergency bids for Fifth Circuit and SCOTX relief on the assertion of a State interest that has no textual basis in the TEC provision being litigated, and is not supported by any pertinent public evidence generally, not to mention evidence tested and found admissible in an adversarial evidentiary hearing or trial.

    6. This is where Dan Patrick comes in: By setting off a shitstorm in the media, which – whether by design or otherwise – he provides fodder for the assertion of an alternative “State interest”, namely “CONFIDENCE IN THE INTEGRITY OF THE ELECTION PROCESS”. This could give the GOP-controlled or GOP-beholden courts another rationale to rule in Paxton’s favor even in the absence of evidence the mail-in voting is problem. The manufactured perception of a problem through the means of mass communications will substitute for an election integrity problem that lack a serious evidentiary basis. It’s already become the custom to cite newspaper article and other online stuff as “other authorities” and briefs now abound with ULR, both in-text and in footnotes. So, in lieu of solid evidence of election fraud, there will be easily linked online shitstorm “evidence” instead.

    BOTTOM LINE: What we have here is an illustration of SHITSTORMING as a means to extra-judicially manipulate and influence pending litigation in a particular direction.

  7. voter_worker says:

    Under-discussed are the mundane administrative components of this situation. Are there any assurances that our minimally-staffed election offices can process in a timely manner an avalanche of applications and mail ballots were it to materialize? Politico has an alarming article up examining the administrative travails that are plaguing Pennsylvania.

  8. Manny says:

    robert – truer words were never spoken.

  9. Bill Daniels says:

    What’s this? Accusations, backed by handwriting analysis, address searches, etc. of massive voter fraud? Unpossible.

  10. […] you notice the reference to voter ID in each of the two stories? I’ve previously discussed this, but it seems this is the sort of thing that will need to be repeated over and over again. The […]