Republicans roll out their big voter suppression bill

They can’t do anything about blackouts or floods or COVID vaccinations, but they sure can do this.

Joining a nationwide movement by Republicans to enact new restrictions on voting, Gov. Greg Abbott indicated Monday he will back legislation to outlaw election measures like those used in Harris County during the 2020 election aimed at expanding safe access to the ballot box during the coronavirus pandemic.

At a press conference in Houston, Abbott served up the opening salvo in the Texas GOP’s legislative response to the 2020 election and its push to further restrict voting by taking aim at local election officials in the state’s most populous and Democratically controlled county. The governor specifically criticized officials in Harris County for attempting to send applications to vote by mail to every registered voter and their bid to set up widespread drive-thru voting, teeing up his support for legislation that would prohibit both initiatives in future elections.

“Whether it’s the unauthorized expansion of mail-in ballots or the unauthorized expansion of drive-thru voting, we must pass laws to prevent election officials from jeopardizing the election process,” Abbott said on Monday. Harris County planned to send out applications to request a mail-in ballot, not the actual ballots.

Harris County officials quickly fired back at Republicans’ proposals in their own press conference.

“These kinds of attempts to confuse, to intimidate, to suppress are a continuation of policies we’ve seen in this state since Reconstruction,” Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said. “It is a continuation as well of the big lie that’s being peddled by some far-right elements that the election in 2020 was somehow not true and should be overturned.”

Texas already has some of the strictest voting rules in the country. Some restrictions being proposed in other states are aimed at voting rules that aren’t allowed in Texas, including no excuse voting by mail and automatic voter registration.

But Texas lawmakers are looking to further tighten the state’s rules with a particular focus on measures put in place by local officials to widen access for voters. Restrictions proposed by Texas Republicans this year include prohibiting counties from sending out mail-in applications unless they’re requested by a voter, barring drive-thru voting that allows more voters to cast ballots from their cars and halting extended early voting hours.

See here and here for the background. This is all pure unadulterated bullshit and they know it, but before we delve into that there’s one other aspect to this that should not be overlooked.

Texas’ Republican leaders are preparing for another purge of suspected non-citizen voters, vowing to be more careful and avoid the mistakes from two years ago when the state threatened to knock nearly 60,000 legal voters off of election rolls.

“It must be done with extreme attention to detail,” said state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, of the proposal he filed to launch a new round of voter purges using state driver’s license information to flag potential illegal voting.

In 2019, the Texas secretary of state sent a list based on state driver’s license data to county election officials showing the names of drivers whom state officials believed might be non-citizens who were voting in Texas. But a further review revealed that tens of thousands of legal citizens were incorrectly included on that list. Then-Secretary of State David Whitley eventually apologized to state lawmakers, saying the lists should have been reviewed more carefully. The Texas Senate ultimately forced Whitley out of office.

Officials in Harris and several other counties refused to send notices that could have knocked voters off the rolls ahead of the 2020 election, and voter rights advocacy groups decried the state’s efforts, which they said unfairly targeted people who may have been non-citizens when they got a driver’s license but had since been naturalized.


Bettencourt said the Legislature is going to set up a better process for the Texas Department of Public Safety and the secretary of state to follow in comparing databases and developing lists of possible non-citizen voters.

“They didn’t understand the data,” Bettencourt said of officials who oversaw the first mass purge attempt.

We are familiar with that debacle. Voter rolls do need to be cleaned up periodically, but there’s no reason to trust any directive from the state on this. They have not shown any evidence to indicate that they take this with the care and seriousness it requires and deserves.

On the broader matter of new voting restrictions, let’s be clear about a few things:

1. I’ve made this observation many times, but literally no one in the state has been more fanatical about looking for cases of voter fraud than Greg Abbott and Ken Paxton, and they have bupkus to show for it. Either these guys are really bad at finding what they swear is all over the place, or they’re big fat liars.

2. As with every other Republican-led effort around the country to restrict voting, this is all the fruit of the poisoned tree that is Donald Trump and his never-ending lies about the 2020 election (and the 2016 election, if you were paying attention). Texas Republicans are in a somewhat awkward position in that they can’t actually admit that the election here was somehow tainted, especially since they were just told by the Secretary of State that everything ran smoothly in 2020, so they resort to making the same false and malicious claims about Pennsylvania and Michigan and Georgia and Arizona. “States rights” ain’t what they used to be.

3. It doesn’t matter to them that everything they propose here will also hurt their own voters. It doesn’t matter than the national boost in voting by mail did not favor either party in 2020. It doesn’t matter that their efforts to suppress Democratic votes, most notably voter ID laws, have acted as catalysts for Democrats to vote. Facts and logic are of no interest to them.

4. What does matter is that they have the votes to pass this. Congress can do largely negate their efforts via the two big voting rights bills that have passed the House and need to get through the Senate, but in the end the only way for Democrats in Texas to really stop this is to win more elections. Until there’s a price to be paid for passing bills like SB7, they’re going to keep doing in.

5. Actually, there may be one other thing that could be done. As before, we turn to Georgia, where even more nasty voter suppression bills are being put forth, for some inspiration:

We’re not going to change any Republican legislator’s mind on this. But we might get some Texas-based companies on our side, and that would at least up the pressure on them. I don’t know who’s taking the organizational lead here, but this is a path to consider. CNN, NBC News, and the Texas Signal have more.

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15 Responses to Republicans roll out their big voter suppression bill

  1. Flypusher says:

    I signed up to get the Democracy Pledge newsletter:

    It says it will
    list businesses that sign on, and those that refuse.

  2. blank says:

    I’m leery of using the corporate route (5). However, I think corporations flexing their influence did help with forwarding gay rights. The Capitol Insurrection may have made it more clear that Democracy matters.

    One other note on this issue is that with legislatures passing such bills, Congress may feel even more compelled to pass HR 1. If you forced me to guess, I don’t think HR 1 passes. However, as the Republicans continue to push more voter restrictions, I think it becomes more likely that Congress passes something to stop it.

  3. Lobo says:


    This bill is an affront to the fundamental idea of government by and for the people and marks a further descent into third-world status for Texas, and autocratic rule.

    Equally appalling is the Governor’s relitigating — in pressers and public appearances — of issues already litigated in the course of last years election.

    Remember that Paxton got the Judicial Republicans on the SCOTX to prohibit the mailing of vote-by-mail applications to Harris County voters by Chris Hollins, and that the Judicial Republicans refrained from ruling on the legality of already-cast drive-thru ballots in Harris County so that the Texas election results could be challenged after the fact, if necessary, had Texas not stayed red.

    Once again, the drum beat about “election integrity” is a euphemism for disfranchisement by other means, and is predicated on the BIG LIE.

    Luckily, this blatant and incessant effort by the GOP to hijack the electoral process is being exposed for what it is. Hopefully, the still sizeable contingent of complacent nonvoters will take note and wise up.

    Meanwhile, we shouldn’t ignore daily stream of minor lies:


    Yesterday, Greg Abbott tweeted thusly: “Texas Attorney General wipes out Griddy customers’ electric bills totaling $29.1 million. This resolves most of the residential customer claims from the winter storm.”

    No such thing.

    With all due respect to good public attorneys in the Consumer Protection Division, Paxton can’t wipe out the bills because (1) he is neither a court, nor is the debt at issue owed to him or his office, (2) the Griddy matter is pending in BK court and debts and claims have yet to be discharged/adjudicated. Gee, Griddy barely just filed (on 3/15). Case style: In re Griddy Energy, LLC, Case No. 21-30923 (MI), Southern District of Texas-Houston Division.

    Further: Griddy has filed a *plan* for liquidation that proposes, inter alia of course, *mutual* releases to resolve the company’s legal relationships with its customers. Not only does this require court approval; Griddy customer have to give up their claims against Griddy in exchange to having their debt “cancelled”. And if they don’t want to, they can opt out and presumably assert their own claims as interested parties. My knowledge of bankruptcy law is sketchy, so perhaps some better informed member of OTK community can weigh in about the proper form and vehicle for asserting such (counter)claims against the Debtor.

    As for the nature of such potential claims, think about it for a moment: If the AG d/b/a the State of Texas has a valid claim against Griddy under the DTPA, why not the Griddy customers, too, based on the same facts? The DTPA, after all, provides a private cause of action to consumers that have been wronged, not just a statutory basis for the AG to bring a civil enforcement action for DTPA violations in the pubic interest.

    According to Griddy’s proposed corporate self-immolation plan in bankruptcy court, Griddy customers would have to give up their respective claims against the company too. See PLAN OF LIQUIDATION FOR GRIDDY ENERGY LLC UNDER CHAPTER 11 OF THE BANKRUPTCY CODE here: See, in particular, Section 1.32 , which defines “Customer Releases”

    And since the Customers at least potentially have something at stake above and beyond the amount of their debt they owe, shouldn’t they have the right to join the bankruptcy case to be heard? Indeed, that appears to be the case.

    According to Abbott, however, the whole thing is already a done deal, and Paxton gets the credit for it.


    In the bigger scheme of things, if Griddy’s debt to ERCOT gets eliminated by the BK court, the shortfall will — barring legislation providing otherwise — likely still be “socialized” under the PUC-ERCOT “uplift” regime, meaning that other market participants face the prospect of having to pony up an amount equal to Griddy’s debt to ERCOT, which is to be allocated to them on some sort of pro-rata basis.

    That’s what the City of Denton is complaining about in its lawsuit against ERCOT. Griddy’s portion of the total shortfall, however, is only $29,022,141.62 (though scheduled as ‘disputed’ on its bankruptcy petition). The Brazos Electric shortfall is a much bigger deal, and that one is at issue both in the Lege and in BK court.


    So, assuming Griddy’s liquidation plan is approved and executed, its (now former) customers get to keep the benefits of their lower pre-crisis bills (i.e., having shelled out less than the folks on fixed-rate plans for the same amount of energy), but are *not* saddled with the losses (in the form of bills for power at $9.00 per KWh over the course of the winter freeze), which are passed on to the suckers.

    Some of them, of course, have already paid by having their Griddy crisis-time charges promptly debited to their bank or credit card accounts, so that poses a different fact scenario, one that is not amenable to balance-due wipe-out by fiat.

    But Abbott wants to help them too.

    BOTTOM LINE: Cancelling Griddy customers’ debt in its entirety is not fair either, and there is therefore nothing for Abbott or Paxton to brag about. Leaving aside the considerations of equity and the proper way of righting the wrongs committed during and after the energy crisis, Abbott shouldn’t misrepresent the facts regarding Griddy’s bankruptcy proceeding; nor should he lull Griddy customers into believing that the AG had already taken care of them and solved all their electricity bill problems. The immediate impression caused by Abbott’s tweet is that that Ken Paxton has already won the DTPA case he filed against Griddy in Harris County District Court. Presumably that case is now under bankruptcy stay if he hasn’t already nonsuited it.

    Rightly, Abbott said yesterday when he effectively fired Arthur “Two-Step with Wall Street” D’Andrea that Texans deserve to have trust and confidence in the Public Utility Commission.

    The same goes for him, too.

  4. Bill Daniels says:

    “3. It doesn’t matter to them that everything they propose here will also hurt their own voters. It doesn’t matter than the national boost in voting by mail did not favor either party in 2020. It doesn’t matter that their efforts to suppress Democratic votes, most notably voter ID laws, have acted as catalysts for Democrats to vote. Facts and logic are of no interest to them.”


    If you really believe all that, then why would you be opposed to the Republicans shooting themselves in their feet? When your enemy is making a mistake, you’re supposed to just sit back and watch, not try fervently to keep them from making that mistake.

    If the facts are as you laid out, your best bet would be to not oppose the Republicans, so you can get all that great blowback you mentioned.

  5. Flypusher says:

    Normally I’d agree on reservations about involving corporations. But this isn’t your standard partisan debating on what should be the tax rate or what are our priorities on trade policy or what needs regulating and how much. This is literally do we want to keep our republic or do we want a kakistocracy that caters to oligarchs and throws culture war bullshit at the rest of us. We the customers have a right to know who stands where on this issue. It’s clear that the majority of voters want to keep the republic, hence the suppression attempts.

  6. Flypusher says:

    “ Rightly, Abbott said yesterday when he effectively fired Arthur “Two-Step with Wall Street” D’Andrea that Texans deserve to have trust and confidence in the Public Utility Commission.”

    This guy gave me a flashback to those Enron douche-bros caught on tape laughing about price gouging elderly people in CA. The only good thing I can say for D’Andrea is that it sounds like he wasn’t laughing.

  7. Flypusher says:

    It’s gross political malpractice not to fight bad oppressive policies.

  8. Glenn says:

    Maybe Kuff cares about encouraging people to vote, have a stake in the system. Idealism, good government all that stuff they Trumpites , MAGA types laugh at.

  9. Lobo says:


    Khoury’s class action in Harris County state district court (Cause No. 2021-10004) has been removed to BK court and docketed as an adversary proceeding in the Griddy Chapter 11 case: Lisa Khoury, Individually and on Behalf of All Others Similarly Situated v. Griddy Energy LLC and Griddy Holdings LLC (173 pages)

    Ken Paxton’s press release on the heels of Griddy BK filing runs like this:

    “My office sued Griddy Energy, under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, to hold them accountable for their escalation of last month’s winter storm disaster by debiting enormous amounts from customer accounts as Texans struggled to survive the storm,” said Attorney General Paxton. “I ensured that Griddy’s proposed bankruptcy plan takes an important step forward by offering releases to approximately 24,000 former customers who owe $29.1 million in unpaid electric bills. Griddy and my office are engaged in ongoing good faith negotiations to attempt to address additional relief for those Griddy customers who have already paid their storm-related energy bills.”

    Meanwhile, the AG has also issued a legal opinion on the matter of PUC authority to do what Patrick and the Senate have voted to prescribe. The gist follows:

    The Utilities Code gives “complete authority” to the Public
    Utility Commission to adopt and enforce rules relating to reliability
    and accounting for the production and delivery of electricity among
    market participants. Specifically, subsection 39.151(d) of the
    Utilities Code authorizes the Public Utility Commission to oversee
    and investigate the independent organization (ERCOT) as necessary
    to ensure ERCOT’s accountability and to ensure that it adequately
    performs its functions and duties. Within the regulatory timelines,
    ERCOT can also revise pricing on the wholesale electricity market
    if certain events occur.

    Under the plain language of subsection 39.151(d), the Public
    Utility Commission has complete authority to act to ensure that
    ERCOT has accurately accounted for electricity production and
    delivery among market participants in the region. Such authority
    likely could be interpreted to allow the Public Utility Commission
    to order ERCOT to correct prices for wholesale electricity and
    ancillary services during a specific timeframe.

    A court would likely find that such corrective action by the
    Public Utility Commission under subsection 39.151(d) does not
    raise constitutional concerns, namely under article 1, sections 16 and
    17 of the Texas Constitution, provided that such regulatory action
    furthers a compelling public interest.


    These are the constitutionality concerns that Abbott also alluded to in his written response to Patrick, which our otherwise stellar quality journalists interpreted as brushoff and as support for Abbott appointee D’Andrea.

    Texas Bill of Right Section 16 concerns retroactivity of legislation and protection of existing contracts, and 17 covers eminent domain (government taking).

    Sec. 16. BILLS OF ATTAINDER; EX POST FACTO OR RETROACTIVE LAWS; IMPAIRING OBLIGATION OF CONTRACTS. No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, retroactive law, or any law impairing the obligation of contracts, shall be made.

    (a) No person’s property shall be taken, damaged, or destroyed for or applied to public use without adequate compensation being made … [remainder omitted]

  10. Jen says:

    I am now wondering if this internecine back-and-forth isn’t being stage managed to distract from a potentially bigger problem for the Rs, namely that the PUC was actively coordinating with Wall Street (and who else?) to extract maximum profits from the crisis as it unfolded. This goes across state lines, and needs to be a Federal investigation before all the evidence can be destroyed or buried by a State AG whitewashing job.

  11. Manny says:

    I have looked into what may be happening; there are two large players (those who lost a lot of money and those that made a lot of money).

    ERCOT commissioner promised the bankers (traders) that they would keep the billions they made, Abbott’s group

    Patrick is trying to protect some of the big generating companies that lost tens of millions of dollars; thus, the price corrections.

    Either way, both groups will probably do find under the corrupt Republican government in Texas.

    I did write something on the subject matter, but this is not a place to link to what I wrote.

    Expect that they are pushing what the ERCOT commissioner called Securitization.

  12. Flypusher says:

    If the owners of the local 7-11 jack up the price of things like water and gas in the aftermath of a hurricane, they are vilified for price gouging. Ken Paxton will even bust them. But the TX GOP will play ball with Wall St price gougers.

  13. Bill Daniels says:

    From Wolf’s post:

    “I ensured that Griddy’s proposed bankruptcy plan takes an important step forward by offering releases to approximately 24,000 former customers who owe $29.1 million in unpaid electric bills.”

    If my math is right, it looks like the amount owed works out to a little over $ 1,200 per account. One wonders how much Griddy users saved over the course of their contracts, compared to their fixed rate plan holding peers?

    I think there’s consensus here that some overcharging went on, but giving Griddy account holders a free pass doesn’t seem like an equitable solution. They privatized their gains (energy savings), but want to socialize their losses. This isn’t fair to all of us who bought the fixed priced plans.

  14. Lobo says:

    Securitization: What was that all about?

    Manny: That’s my take on what D’Andrea was schmoozing about with this Wall Street buddies (in addition to sharing valuable insider insights and assessments of the political situation in real time). I am referring to the recorded “private” phone call shared by TEXAS MONTHLY: An upcoming securitization opportunity, as in having the losers without deep pockets (losers thanks to the PUC-ERCOT staged heist) pay off the gigantic debt foisted upon them to Wall Street investors through a scheme to raise funds to settle the bill with ERCOT by issuing some sort of instrument that gets resold to investors, with the payments to retire the (securitized) debt spread out over the next one or two generations of Texas ratepayers, preferably with the State of Texas providing a guaranty/credit support to sweeten the deal, and the assets and future ratepayer receipts being pledged and indentured as collateral. — So okay, I know that was a monster of a sentence from a syntax standpoint, but it befits the complexity of the world of finance, of which I admittedly have only an inkling. So the specifics may very well be different, but the idea is that the bill gets paid immediately with money raised on the Street, while the ratepayers will then have to pay off that debt over decades as part of what they pay for their electricity, with a premium (interest) of course going to the financiers.

    Raising funds on Wall Street would be the logical counterpart to Mr. Love-the-Loadshed’s professed commitment to do what he could in his capacity of Last-Man-Standing Commission to make sure that the winners could keep the spoils (i.e., the figurative robbers, the loot), not to mention his obsequious apology to the Street about the oh-so-lamentable political “uncertainty” down here in Texas.

    After all, the money must come from somewhere.


    Keep in mind that the rate payers and “owners” of the co-ops are in the end the same people, so humans in Texas – rather than entities/investors — take the loss and shoulder the burden one way or the other. They can’t just go out of business and do without electricity (in areas that do not have competitive retail providers there are no alternative to traditional monopoly utilities).

    It’s a different story for the private independent generators that couldn’t perform and had to pay to meet their commitments at the $9,000 PUC-set rate in lieu of performance. As long as only one or some of a fleet of generating units failed, they would still come out ahead if they could sell a higher volume of energy at the inflated $9,000 PUC-set price during the crisis. And it may also have paid to have diversified by fuel source and technology.


    To determine how each market player comes out in the end is difficult for several reasons, including their corporate structure (parent vs. subsidiaries), hedging, and other reasons. What is clear even without comprehensive data, however, is that the net effect of the crisis on each market players is not uniform (and that’s true even of the municipal sector), but the data is not readily available either.

    So who knows?

    The Independent Market Monitor had access to more data than what is in the pubic domain, however, and offered an estimate of the net amount at issue in the repricing debacle (in addition to the $16 billion overall figure, which represents the total value of electricity at the inflated cap price after the forced outages). They did so in the second, clarifying, letter. But their reassessment (and recommendation for correction) only concerned the 32-hour overpricing period after the end of the load shed/forced blackouts, i.e. Thursday and part of Friday. So that’s only one part of the puzzle.


    What D’Andrea pursued differs fundamentally from error correction/repricing, which involves reversing (part) of the money flow administer by ERCOT in the settlement process. That latter approach involves returning money extracted/extorted from those forced to pay at the in PUC-imposed to-the-hilt $9,000 price gouging rate. The major victim of that part of the PUC-overseen price gouging is Brazos Electric, which is now in bankruptcy court, but — unlike Griddy — not for liquidation and winddown.

    And the reason for the urgency on the part of LG Patrick is that the error correction must be made within the timeframe provided for by the PUC/ERCOT rules and protocol to remain within the existing framework. Time is running out.

  15. Manny says:

    Lobo, the following is the best definition that I found for securitization;

    A typical utility tariff securitization program is simple and straightforward. It 1) puts a charge on the electric bill of substantially all consumers in a utility’s service territory, 2) collects the charge and turns it over to a special purpose, a bankruptcy-remote subsidiary of a fully regulated sponsoring utility to pay principal and interest on the bonds, and 3) guarantees that the government will raise the charge whenever it is anticipated that collections may be insufficient to pay principal and interest on time. That’s it.

    As one bond trader put it: “They are the gems of any portfolio.”

    There are two large groups that the Republicans want to help

    The bankers/traders who made millions

    and the generators that lost millions – i.e. -“Exelon Corp., which has a small presence in Texas with three power plants, said Wednesday that when those plants went offline last week, it cost the company between $750 million and $950 million. The output of those plants represents about 3 percent of the state’s capacity. Christopher Crane, Exelon’s chief executive officer, said the company resorted to the high-priced spot market to meet its contractual obligations.

    “This loss is not acceptable to us,” he said in a call to investors.

    The company may consider pulling out of Texas, he added, unless its market is reformed.

    Vistra, a major producer of electricity, announced Friday that it will suffer costs estimated at between $900 million and $1.3 billion because of the freeze.

    “There were winterization issues at gas processing plants,” Curt Morgan, the company’s CEO, said at a state legislative hearing Thursday. “We’ve got 70,000 megawatts of dispatchable resources. We had 30,000 of that out, a huge amount.”

    Subsidiaries of American Electric Power in Texas and Oklahoma, which was also hit by the cold, had to pay more than $1 billion for natural gas last week, roughly as much as was budgeted for all of 2021, Julie Sloat, the chief financial officer, said Thursday in an earnings call.”

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