February 01, 2008
One small piece of good news on voter ID

There was one bit of news, from this Texas Politics blog post, about last week's VoterIDPalooza hearings that offers a small ray of hope:

A Texas legislative subcommittee will look for solutions intended to reduce fraud involving mail-in, or absentee voter ballots.

Most experts agree that problems exist with those ballots, which photo ID requirements would not fix.

House Elections Chairman Leo Berman, R-Tyler, appointed Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, to chair a three-member subcommittee, which has been instructed to report back to his full committee in six months.

I'm glad to finally see some small recognition that absentee balloting, which needless to say is completely outside the scope of the photo ID debate, is the place where vote fraud really happens. There's nobody better than Rafael Anchia to look into that, too. This may just be cover for whatever voter ID bill the Republicans try to cram through the Lege next year, but it's still good that the issue is being studied. Maybe it'll help everyone get a little perspective on where the problems really are.

Elsewhere, Eye on Williamson points to this Harvey Kronberg op-ed, in which he finds his dad's old poll tax receipts, and sums up the current situation succinctly:

Advocates of photo ID claim we currently suffer massive election fraud.

And pretty much everyone does agree there is a problem with mail-in ballot fraud and voter registration lists that include non-citizens and the dead.

But a photo ID wouldn't deal with those frauds.

The only problem a photo ID solves is someone impersonating a voter at a polling place, something that every one agrees is all but non-existent.

While race and illegal immigrants may be a subtext of the argument in 2008, it's really mostly about partisan advantage.

And finally, Martin Frost writes that the photo ID requirement in voter ID laws may be even more pernicious than it first appears:

An Indiana law imposing such a requirement has been challenged, and its fate will be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in a case that was argued before the court on Jan. 9.


This case is intertwined with an unpopular law passed by Congress several years ago called "Real ID," which requires states to dramatically increase the documentation required to obtain a driver's license.

A number of states are resisting implementation of this new law because it is an "unfunded mandate" that would force states to spend millions of dollars of their own tax revenue (no federal funds provided) to comply with its provisions.

In those states that are complying, citizens are finding it much harder to obtain a driver's license, thus further reducing the pool of individuals who will have the type of state ID required to vote by laws like the one being challenged in the Supreme Court.

According to the brief submitted to the Supreme Court by the individuals challenging the constitutionality of this Indiana law, the statute clearly is aimed straight at these groups.

The brief notes that "about 12 percent of voting-age Americans lack a driver's license.

"And about 11 percent of voting-age United States citizens -- more than 21 million individuals -- lack any form of current government-issued photo ID.

"That 11 percent figure grows to 15 percent for voting-age citizens earning less than $35,000 per year, 18 percent for citizens at least 65 years old and 25 percent for African-American voting-age citizens."

This is what is called in the law a "disparate effect."

We can only hope the Supreme Court sees it that way.

UPDATE: Forgot to link to the AusChron's coverage of the voter ID hearings, which among other things show Anchia taking on Paul Bettencourt's bamboozlements. And via BOR, some charges about selective enforcement of absentee ballot laws have been leveled against AG Greg Abbott.

House Elections Chairman Leo Berman, R-Tyler said he plans to ask Attorney General Greg Abbott to respond to allegations of partisan favoritism presented to his committee by Gerald Hebert, head of litigation at the Campaign Legal Center.

Hebert complained to Berman's committee last week that Abbott has prosecuted Texans "who appear to have done little more than mistakenly help senior citizens by delivering already completed and sealed ballots to the post office or an elections administrative office."

Of 13 voter fraud-related indictments, virtually all are African Americans or Hispanic senior citizens, Hebert noted.

He told the committee: "What is especially troubling is that while Greg Abbott's office has prosecuted minority seniors for simply mailing ballots, he has not prosecuted anyone on the other side of the aisle for what appear to be open and shut cases of real voter fraud."

Hebert told the committee about alleged voter fraud in heavily Republican Highland Park involving the mishandling of over 100 ballots and a memo from local prosecutors calling on Abbott to investigate the 2005 complaint. He explained that the attorney general's office handed off the complaint to the Texas secretary of state "for evaluation of as potential criminal prosecution."

He called that "a stalling tactic" because it is the AG's office that evaluates criminal prosecution.

Nothing has happened, according to Hebert.


Hebert is a former federal prosecutor in the U.S. Department of Justice. He also is an attorney in a pending lawsuit challenging several Texas laws passed in 2003, including one that makes it a crime to possess a mail-in ballot of another person. And he also represented Democrats who fought the redistricting efforts of GOP leaders in 2003.

Hebert told Berman's committee:

"One can only conclude that Greg Abbott is using the official resources of the State of Texas to relentlessly pursue and prosecute minorities and Democrats who may have unknowingly violated a narrow, flawed and controversial provision in Texas law. None of the 10 persons prosecuted have been charged with or admitted to defrauding a single voter.

"At the same time, Abbott's office has failed to seek prosecution of a single Republican or any individual involved with Republican election activities, even after being provided clear evidence that Republican office holders and Republican election officials engaged in improper activities that may have 100 or more ballots."

Hebert said, "There is a fraud being perpetrated on Texas voters, but it's not what you think. It is being perpetrated on Texas votes by Attorney General Greg Abbott, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, and others who claim that voter fraud in Texas has reached epidemic proportions. Their false and unsubstantiated claims are the real fraud."

Pretty heavy stuff. We'll see what Abbott has to say for himself.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 01, 2008 to That's our Lege