April 29, 2009
The voter ID "compromise" bill

Here we go.

The voter identification bill likely to reach the House floor would allow Texans to cast ballots if they can show two forms of non-photo ID, despite pressure from many Republican members to require picture identification for all voters. Rep. Todd Smith's compromise bill - circulated on the House floor this morning - also calls for increased funding for voter registration, greater acceptance of provisional ballots and a four year transition into the new voter identification system, lawmakers who received copies of it said.

The bill is expected to be considered by the House Elections Committee, which Smith chairs, this weekend, and could come up in the House as early as next week.

Smith's current legislation is similar to the voter ID bill that passed the Senate - a bill that would allow voters to produce two non-photo IDs in lieu of a photo ID. One key difference: Smith's bill allows for a four-year phase in of the new rules, while the bill the GOP-dominated Senate passed requires them by the 2010 elections.

Gardner Selby has more.

--Smith envisions any voter who doesn't completely fulfill the ID requirements getting to cast a ballot that would be counted later than regular ballots, if their signature at the polling place matches their signature on the voter's voter registration application or another public record in the possession of their county's voter registrar.

A twist: Smith's rewrite leaves the verification of signatures to local signature verification committees consisting of five voters or more, chosen on nomination by the local Democratic and Republican county chairs. Each board is to be chaired by a nominee from the party whose gubernatorial candidate drew the most local votes in the latest governor's election. The committees would be appointed by the early voting ballot board, which I suspect exists now in each county.

--Smith's version would not take effect unless the Legislature appropriates $7.5 million in 2010-11 to register voters.

I'll say this much for Smith, he hasn't (yet) bowed to pressure from his fellow Republicans, who seem bent on making voting a damn-near punitive experience. He still hasn't gone far enough for me to consider his alternative acceptable - sorry, but same day voter registration is a must-have for anything to be considered - but it seems clear he's listened to Democratic concerns and is at least making some effort to accommodate. Which isn't to say I trust him, but he hasn't gone over the edge and that's something. I suspect he's also aware of the fact that the GOP wet dream legislation almost surely doesn't have the votes to pass the House. Keep an eye on that list of pledge signers - if Tommy Merritt and Delwyn Jones show up, then it's a whole new ballgame, but until then I think there's a decent chance the House won't pass anything too horrible. Which makes me a lot more optimistic than I was in the beginning. I still want this whole thing to die a messy death amid savage Republican infighting. But if that's not going to happen, passing something relatively toothless would be a victory, especially given how this session began.

UPDATE: Vince has more.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 29, 2009 to That's our Lege
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