Thank goodness...Via Latinos for Texas, eleven Democratic Senators have signed a petition saying they will not vote to allow the Senate companion to Mary Denny's HB1706 to the floor, thus killing it for this session. The Quorum Report (Word doc) has the text of their statement, with Sen. Rodney Ellis echoing a few points you've read here. Rep. Aaron Pena notes that HB1706 had passed on its final reading by a relatively slender 78-67 margin, while Karl-T speculates (most likely accurately) that the 11 Democratic Senators did not include the DINO Ken Armbrister. Finally, Sarah notes the lone bit of good news from the Elections Committee, the approval of Rep. Pena's HB166, which would require a paper audit trail on electronic voting machines. I don't expect that to become a law, but at least it wasn't strangled in the crib like HB1348.
Since my last post on HB1706 generated so many comments, let me reiterate why I have been so shrill about it. Beyond the insulting comparison of voting to renting a video, there's the simple fact that HB1706 would have done nothing to prevent any of the problems that we know occurred in 2004. Go back to the Hartnett report on the Heflin challenge. The three main classes of disqualified voters were as follows:
1) Voters from Fort Bend County casting ballots in Harris County's HD149;
2) Voters from other State House districts within Harris County casting ballots in HD149, and;
3) Voters who turned out to have erroneous voter's registration applications.
In the first two instances, what we had was voters who were poorly served by their registrars, by their County Clerk, and/or by their local election judges. These were not cases of false identification, they were cases of mistaken voting location. If any of these voters had brought their driver's license, birth certificate, passport, and a DNA sample along with their voter's reg cards, they'd have been allowed to vote where they did just as they actually were. They were who they said they were, they were just in the wrong place because someone along the line didn't tell them otherwise. The people in the last group did things like forget to check the "I am a citizen" box, or failed to return their form on time. Again, extra identification would not have changed their status on Election Day.
Even the one case of genuine fraud that was uncovered in this election would not have been ameliorated by extra identification. Had it gone according to plan, the voters who were re-registered without their knowledge would have shown up in HD149 on Primary Day and then told to go to a precinct in HD137, where they would have cast ballots with their validly-informed voter's reg cards and their driver's licenses with matching names and addresses. Their identity would have been right; it was the County Clerk's voters roll that was supposed to have been wrong. They would have been happily waved through under Mary Denny's rules, since once again they were who they said they were, they just wouldn't have been where they were supposed to be.
The one scenario that Mary Denny keeps talking about is dead people voting. Assuming this sort of thing happens, isn't it the job of the County Clerk and/or Tax Assessor to ensure that the voter's roll is compared to the Social Security database and purged of those who no longer walk this Earth? Shouldn't we be working to make it easier for them to do their jobs if this is what concerns us? If dead people can't get registered, they can't vote anyway. Why aren't we attacking the problem where we can make the biggest difference?
And let's be honest here. Nobody's going to try to sway an election by generating a bunch of fake voter reg cards, which will then have to be handed out to a bunch of volunteers with instructions to vote often in different locations on Election Day. Too many moving parts, too little bang for the buck, too much chance of getting caught. If you're going to fix an election, you're going to do it the old-fashioned way, like they did with LBJ's infamous Box 13: You're going to bribe or blackmail an elections official to do it, assuming you yourself aren't that elections official. How else can you be sure that you've done enough to make a difference? How else can you keep the number of conspirators to a manageable amount? And how are more stringent ID requirements on voters going to affect you? Answer to that last question: Not a damn bit.
So Mary Denny's bill wouldn't have prevented any of the problems that affected the Heflin-Vo race, and it wouldn't do anything to curb real election fraud. What would it do? The one thing we can say for certain it would do is ensure that fewer people vote. Some people won't know any better and will show up on Election Day with insufficient identification. They'll be placed into Provisional Voter purgatory, and unless they take the extraordinary step of making a separate trip to the County Clerk's office to prove they are who they say they are, their vote won't count. Some people will know better and will stay home because they don't have a driver's license and think they can't vote without one. And some people will find themselves stuck on a longer line than they expected, since elections judges now have more work to do, and will give up and leave before they get to the front. All that, without any actual fraud-fighting benefit.
So yeah, this bill sucked and it deserved to die. And if I've been a little strident in my rhetoric about it, I hope this clarifies my reasons.Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 03, 2005 to That's our Lege | TrackBack