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Day 17 quorum busting post: Testify

Ladies and gentlemen, Ms T.

Rep. Senfronia Thompson

State Rep. Senfronia Thompson described to a U.S. House committee on Thursday occasions in 2010 and 2012 when white Republican poll watchers showed up at a Houston polling place where she and many other Black voters cast ballots.

“They had people that looked like they was from the Proud Boys looking at you like you were in the wrong place,” the Houston Democrat testified. “In a minority area, that has a chilling effect. The word gets out that these people are at your polls looking at you like they want to arrest you, keep you from voting.

“You’re damn right I left Texas, and I’m glad I did,” Thompson said. “I left Texas to give my people a right to be able to vote without them being infringed upon.”

It was one of several instances in which Texas Democrats detailed the ways they say Republican-backed legislation would make it harder for minorities to vote. Republicans, meanwhile, said the Texas Democrats were exaggerating the effects of the bill and should be back in Austin debating it in the Legislature, not complaining about it to Congress.

[…]

Three Texas Democrats — Thomspon, San Antonio state Rep. Diego Bernal and Dallas state Rep. Nicole Collier — gave impassioned testimony to the House panel as they urge Congress to advance new federal voting laws to head off GOP efforts in Texas and other states.

The congressional hearing also brought a bit of news: U.S. Rep. Pat Fallon, a Sherman Republican, said his colleagues in Texas informed him they would remove a provision from the proposed legislation that would require voters applying to vote by mail to include a driver’s license number or social security number that they used when registering to vote.

“That speaks well for coming to Washington,” said U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat who chairs the House Oversight Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. “You made a little bit of progress.”

It all made for a big day for the more than four dozen Democrats who have drawn a national spotlight and met with a slew of their party’s leaders since their arrival in D.C. three weeks ago. The group left Texas earlier this month to break quorum in the state House and stop Republicans from passing new voting restrictions.

That’s what they’re there for, to make this not only real but timely for the Washington Democrats. And maybe, just maybe, there’s some hope on the horizon.

Senate Democrats have been crafting a revised voting rights bill that Sen. Joe Manchin might deign to vote for, particularly since he is in the group that’s working on it. The Rev. Sen. Raphael Warnock asked Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to convene the group to rewrite the bill, he told The Washington Post, and he, Schumer, Manchin and a few other senators met Wednesday. Further, Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are meeting with President Joe Biden on Friday to discuss moving forward on voting rights, perhaps before August recess.

“It’s important that the American people understand that this is very much on our radar, and we understand the urgency, and we’re committed to getting some progress,” Warnock said. Manchin added, “Everybody’s working in good faith on this … It’s everybody’s input, not just mine, but I think mine, maybe … got us all talking and rolling in the direction that we had to go back to basics,” he said. Other Democrats in the meeting included Sens. Alex Padilla of California; Oregon’s Jeff Merkley, who is lead sponsor of the For the People Act in the Senate; and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, chair of the committee in charge of the bill.

A Democrat who did not wish to be named told the Post that the bill would largely follow the proposal for revisions Manchin put forward last month. It could also potentially include language to strengthen the Voting Rights Act, restoring provisions gutted by recent Supreme Court decisions. It’s not clear now whether it would incorporate the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, or just some provisions from it. That bill hasn’t been acted on in the House yet.

The same source also told the Post that it could include language to counter “election subversion”—specifically the kind of action the Republican legislature in Georgia is trying to pull by taking over the duties of elections officials in the state’s largest—and most Black—county.

As I said before, getting a federal voting rights bill passed would be the big, ultimate slam-dunk win for the legislative Dems. This may be the best opportunity yet, if it can get that crucial buy-in to not let the stupid filibuster be the roadblock. But time is running out, at least for our Dem legislators. The special session is nearly over, both chambers of Congress are fixing to go on recess, and then there’s also this:

If you want there to be preclearance, then you have to have it in place before the new maps get drawn. Leadership is aligned, but the Senate is as always the bottleneck. Keep pushing, it won’t happen on its own.

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11 Comments

  1. Jason Hochman says:

    Senfronia Thompson sounds like she is stereotyping and profiling. Imagine if someone said that there were Black people hanging out around the parking lot, and a person that they looked like they were going to mug me. Therefore, Senfronia Thompson meets the definition of racist.

    Also, if you support drive through voting, Go Fuck Yourself. You are increasing the greenhouse gas. I love this beautiful planet, and you are destroying it. My friend Greta says it too. Go fuck yourself.

  2. Manny says:

    Jason, I am glad that you support universal voting by mail. Think of all the gasoline that would be saved by not having to drive to the voting location.

  3. David Fagan says:

    Meanwhile, voter suppression closer to home, Turner says the signatures of voters who signed legal petitions will not, conveniently, be counted by the August 16 deadline.

  4. policywonqueria says:

    POLICY ARGUMENT COMPARISON: THE LOGISTICS OF DELIVERING VOTES

    From a policywonk perspective, Manny has the better argument (though it could be articulated more clearly), and here is why: 

    Universal voting-by-mail would eliminate trips to polling stations for all voters, and would entail other savings, such as facility rental (if applicable) or at least wear and tear for government buildings. It would obviate sundry costs for expendable polling place supplies, not to mention investments in equipment and voting machines (though those for new a more secure machines have already been made in Harris County and couldn’t be recovered). The biggest recurring cost component — and thus savings –would presumably be the labor costs for poll workers.

    Some of these savings to be achieved by switching of all-mail-voting would, of course, have to be weighed against the increases in costs for processing the much higher volume of paper ballots (including the printing and mailing cost), but that could be centralized and done more efficiently, with especially large efficiency gains (admin cost in $ per cast ballot) to be achieved in large counties that currently have hundreds of voting locales that would no longer be needed.

    SHARED FACTUAL PREMISE

    That said, both Jason and Manny assume that voters use gasoline-fired combustion engines, and that assumption is central to their argument about comparative climate-friendliness of different modalities of voting. The move to EVs would have a much wider impact because it would make all trips climate-friendly, not just those to polling places once or twice a year.

    Mr. Hochman’s proposition that the drive-thru voting should be supported or opposed based on its impact on global warming borders on the inane because the impact is close to infinitesimal. Which is not to say that folks — such as Mr. Hochman — should be discouraged from riding to the polling place (whether conventional of roll-thru) on their bicycle. The proposition just fails the means/ends-efficiency test in the climate change framework. 

    QUESTION OF QUEUE MANAGMENT

    In any event, if we nevertheless treat Jason’s argument seriously, the proper assessment would involve the *increment* in exhaust caused by motor-voters who have their engines idling/in stop-and-go mode while in the line to cast their ballot, compared to those who drive to the polling station, park, and then queue up inside (or in front of the entrance, as the case might be). 

    The more effective mechanism to reduce wait and motor idling time, however, involves facilities and staffing decisions, i.e. matching the number of lanes/polling stations to anticipated demand at different times during the day. Large volumes to handle surge demand can be handled in large parking lots, such as at the Reliant stadium. Efforts can also be made to manage/steer demand patterns through public messaging, or real-time congestion monitoring with data made available to voters via cell phone. This, of course, assumes that voters are free to choose from multiple available drive-thru locations open contemporaneously, which is also a election-administration policy issue.

    HUMAN-IMPACT CONSIDERATIONS

    The more immediate human-welfare considerations would involve the adverse effects to tail pipe emissions on motor voters and poll workers. Leaving aside flow management and congestion mitigation strategies to reduce queue-times, this is best addressed by having the drive-thru voting take place in open spaces (rather than enclosed, such as the Toyota Center garage), and by assuring proper ventilation (of temporary structures, such as tents), perhaps even by varying the orientation of the tents/temporary structures or the marked lines to optimize the ventilation effect of naturally-occurring wind.

    THE LAW IS WHAT THE LEGE DECIDES IT SHOULD BE

    Texas Republicans make ridiculous arguments about what the Election Code allows or doesn’t allow (as if it were a matter or relitigating the issues litigated in 2020).

    The Election Code is a product of prior legislation and can thus be changed to make it better. It doesn’t constrain a legislature that is committed to making good policy to serve the people of Texas. Whether voting can/should take place in a temporary structure or a tent as an alternative to a traditional building is a policy choice to be made by the legislature. – Legislature as in — lexically speaking — law-making body. 

    And the same goes of other improvements that have already been field-tested and proven effective and popular.

  5. Jason Hochman says:

    I’m not sure we have data showing that the drive through voting environmental impact is infinitesimal. WE must stop any and all superfluous driving.

    Electric vehicles are primarily affordable to the wealth White privilege class. Not to mention they are going to charge them up on the coal and gas powered grid, which is already stressed to its limits.

    We don’t need drive through voting.

    We don’t need any voting. It is a cynical mindset that would say: here are people too dumb to get an ID, too dumb to bring their own bottle of water, not smart enough to hire a lawyer or accountant, but, they are just dumb enough that we can convince them to vote for us.

  6. policywonqueria says:

    Thank you, Mr. Hochman, for providing a suitable example of

    LOUSY POLICY ARGUMENTATION

    Argument: “Electric vehicles are primarily affordable to the wealth White privilege class. Not to mention they are going to charge them up on the coal and gas powered grid, which is already stressed to its limits.”

    Response: From a policy wonk perspective, this statement is mostly hogwash and here is why:

    The grid gets “stressed” — or “tight” in ERCOT parlance — under demand-surge conditions (extreme heat/cold) or when generators go into outage without prior warning, or a combination of the two. There is no shortage of electric energy generating capacity, and hence available supply, under normal operating conditions in Texas, which is also reflected in the low price under normal operating conditions. And coal is on the way out because it is not competitive with natural gas. Natural gas, in turn, is not competitive with wind, at least not when the wind is blowing briskly. How could that be relevant to the discussion of EVs? Well, you could charge the EVs when the wind is blowing briskly. Or – as a matter of public policy and ERCOT market management — provide incentives for EV owners to adjust their charging behavior accordingly, such as through pricing signals).

    As a general proposition, to avoid stressing the grid by adding to demand during peak times (heat wave, cold front), the scheduling of the EV-charging can be done so as to mitigate the worst fluctuations, including, if need be, automatic remote-controlled shut off/no-charging during peak hours. Similar approach as “demand response”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demand_response

    This supply/demand-linked energy consumption pattern is already in effect if folks charge their EVs at night when the energy cost is lower, especially in the summer when there is a significant price differential between hot afternoons and nighttime.

    Even if the pricing mechanism is not (yet) implemented at the household/indiv. consumer level, it can be used and optimized at the commercial/fleet level. And dynamic pricing at the household level would be a policy option worth discussing if the Texas Legislature were actually interested in devising a sensible energy policy in the public interest. Instead, they categorically banned index-plans for the consumer segment of the market. – Ban, ban, ban.

    If individuals have their own solar systems, then the peak supply for charging EVs would be during the day time, which would work for folks who don’t commute to an office, work night shifts, or have a second car. This could also be set up so as to prioritize A/C or heating needs under extreme weather conditions.

    THE FOR-ALL-OR-NONE NONSENSE

    Who said everyone is equally suited to switch to EV now? And why would universal adoption even be desirable at this juncture? Same goes for the affordability, which varies widely in the conventional MV market. As a matter of public policy, aggregate-level benefits can be achieved with participation rates that are only a fraction of the whole.

    And how is not being able to afford an EV (assuming it is and remains pricier) a valid argument against EV for the market segment that can afford it and is interested in that mobility option?

    In any event, to the extent financial barriers are politically judged to be a problem (Dems and GOPs would likely have different views on the matter) the cost differential can be mitigated or even eliminated through incentives, such as “green” subsidies or tax breaks. There is nothing new regarding such policy tools.

    MOBILE ENERGY-STORAGE UNIT IN THE GARAGE

    In future, EVs could also serve as a distributed electric energy-storage infrastructure to address short-term supply disruptions whatever their cause, and to manage supply-demand fluctuations more generally.

    At the individual level, it would be better than just having a conventional battery in a gasoline-fueled car that was good enough to keep your cell phone going in the February winter storm, but wasn’t good for much else, not even the TV.

  7. Jason Hochman says:

    To be honest with you, that is correct, I don’t know much about the grid and how stressed it is. All that I do know is that Abbott did nothing to fix it, and, this winter, I am buying a fireplace and already have an axe to cut down the trees in my yard.

  8. Kibitzer says:

    Jason raises a point worth reflecting upon. What is racism in speech, and does it depend on the race of the speaker or the content, or whether there is — or is not — congruence?

    Leaving that big issue up for discussion, there is the narrower question of what is involved in political representation.  

    THE MISSIVE FROM SENFRONISTAN

    In the interest of civility in public debate, this Kibitzer will not go so far as to condemn Representative Senfronia Thompson for the “my people” talk.

    Let me just suggest that it’s problematic.

    Thanks to gerrymandering presumably, the so-called “Anglo (non-Hispanic)” component in her district is 11,863 or 6.3%. Maybe we should consider that to be the real underlying problem: Racial segregation. And tribal chieftains elected by tribal majorities who lose sight of the larger community and the diversity in its composition.

    Still, even if Ms. Thompson has a plausible claim that she was elected by “her people”, it shouldn’t be too much to expect her to represent *all* of her constituents in Texas House District 141 and choose words to refer to their representation accordingly. Like Sheila Jackson Lee, for example, does with respect to her district. At least on occasions.

    And that wholeness in Senfronia’s H-town-area homeland includes 84,965 Hispanics, or 44.8%. No racial homogeneity or common kinship there even if the “white” segment is dismissed as “de minimis” as a lawyer might put it to make the dismissal appear justified.

    District demographics here:
    https://wrm.capitol.texas.gov/fyiwebdocs/PDF/house/dist141/profile.pdf

    DEMOS = THE PEOPLE

    As shown in recent national network appearances, and previously on the cause-driven campaign trail, Beto O’Rourke handles the sensitive matter of demographic and collective-identity diversity much better. His mission  to save Democracy is truly nontribalist. And not even partisan in the semantics.

    And that’s how it should be.

    Preserving Democracy and eliminating obstructions to voting is a universal imperative. It’s truly for all citizens of the Republic, not just one demographic segment that may be more pigmented than another.
     

  9. Manny says:

    PolicyW- I merely pointed out that Jason’s desire for people not to drive would indicate that universal voting by mail would cut down on the use of vehicles for voting. It has nothing to do with the cost of voting by mail or in person. You added another criterion to attempt to start a different argument.

    If you think you speak/write clearly, I got news for you. You don’t.

  10. Jason Hochman says:

    Kibitzer, that was clearly racist and racial profiling from Ms Thompson, “they was hanging around and they looked like they was Proud Boys or something.”

    What exactly do Proud Boys look like? And that was “looking at you like you was in the wrong place.” Maybe, just maybe, you are reading this into the situation?

    Like I said, what if I saw a group of Black youths on the street corner, and I said, “they looked like a bunch of thugs and gangsters, and looked at me like they were gonna steal my wallet.” Even if they did punch me up and take my wallet, I would still be a racist for saying that.

  11. Bill Daniels says:

    Senfronia thinks she’s the second coming of Barbara Jordan, when in fact, she’s Al Sharpton in a skirt. I’d say I find her racism stunning, but frankly, that level of chutzpah is expected from someone like her who trades in race baiting. Does she experience fear when she is exposed to her White constituents? That’s probably why they don’t get representation from her. How could they? She’s literally afraid of them.

    And this might be a self fulfilling prophesy…..the kind of people that would keep reelecting such an overt racist would probably be unwelcoming to Whites in their own neighborhoods and schools, meaning, any White who can, probably flees Senfronia’s district. So we have a self fulfilling circle of segregation going.

    And in another irony, our society has gone from one where Whites themselves fled to the suburbs (White flight) because of their intolerance of living with non Whites, to one where Whites once again flee blacks, but this time, because the blacks are intolerant of sharing their community with whites.

    Exhibit A: Senfronia Thompson.