Update Wednesday Jan. 26, 2010 @ 11:58pm
As expected, the Texas Senate approved the controversial voter ID bill late Wednesday by a party line vote of 19 to 11. Democrats proposed about three-dozen changes to the bill that would have made it easier or cheaper to obtain identification or that would have allowed non-photo identification for use in voting, but most failed. The one change that did pass will allow Texans to present a concealed-handgun license photo ID to vote. Next, the measure will move to the Republican-dominated House, where it is also expected to pass easily later in this session.
Update Tuesday Jan. 25, 2010 @ 11:45pm
Keying off Gov. Rick Perry’s declaration of the issue as a legislative emergency, the Senate put voter identification legislation on a fast track Monday and turned itself into a committee of the whole Monday so it could consider and vote on the bill (SB14) as soon as public comment and debate ends. An initial vote on the measure — now being cited by supporters and opponents as the toughest voter ID law in the country — followed party lines late Tuesday: 20 Republicans in favor, 12 Democrats against. SB14 is considered to be tougher than voter photo ID laws on the books in eight other states, including Georgia and Indiana. A second and final approval vote is expected late Wednesday after a 24-hour delay required by Senate rules. Twenty-six amendments have been filed and will be considered after the second vote on the bill.
Over on the House side of the capital building Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, chairman of the Texas Conservative Coalition, offered an amendment to House rules on Tuesday that would allow the House to also consider the voter photo ID bill directly on the floor as a committee of the whole without taking public testimony.
Rep. Burt Solomon, R-Carrollton, who drafted the House rules resolution, told his colleagues that the House has met as a “committee of the whole” only to deal with impeachment proceedings in the 1970s and 1920s, and even those matters first passed through standing House committees. Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, then questioned the lack of public testimony if the House takes up voter identification without public hearings.
Christian’s proposal to amend House rules to immediately send voter photo ID legislation to the House floor was voted down 130-13. Eighty-eight Republicans and 42 Democrats voted against Christian, while all those voting with him were Republicans.
However, there is little doubt that House Republicans will continue to push the bill through the regular legislative process before the end of this session.
Original Post Sunday Jan. 23, 2010 @ 8:50am
Last Thursday, Texas Governor Rick Perry added Voter Government Issued Photo Identification legislation to his list of controversial items he has declared as emergencies for the 82nd Texas Legislature to consider.
The idea behind this legislation is that to combat in person voting voter impersonation fraud voters must present Government Issued Photo Identification to election clerks.
Any voter who does not have a photo ID, or who election clerks consider does not look like his or her ID photo will not be allowed to vote a regular ballot. Those voters will only be allowed to cast a provisional ballot. Those voters who do vote a provisional ballot must then present their Government Issued Photo Identification to the County Election office by the sixth day after the election or their provisional ballot will not be counted.
By Gov. Perry declaring voter photo identification an emergency the Senate is allowed to take up the legislative measure for immediate consideration. Usually, a bill will go before a committee, which then takes testimony on the issue, followed by debate and then a committee vote before it advances to the full Senate. An emergency measure can go straight to floor debate in the Senate. The voter photo ID measure is schedule to go to the Senate floor for debate and an up or down vote on Monday January 24th.
During Texas House Elections Committee debate on the voter photo ID requirement issue in the 2009 legislative session Republican proponents of the ID law admitted there is no evidence of voter impersonation “fraud” in Texas. “We can’t prove there is voter ID fraud. . . We may have a big voter impersonation problem we don’t know about. I think we do,” said Skipper Wallace, the Republican Party chairman of Lampasas County.
The senate bill as written, as of last Thursday, would require voters in elections after next January to present a driver’s license, valid military identification or a citizenship certificate with a photo. Voters who do not have such identification would only be allowed to cast provisional ballots and they must then present identification to the county elections office by the sixth day after the election.
Passage of a government issued photo voter ID requirement is the GOP’s legislative priority for the 2011 Texas Legislative session, according to state Rep. Todd Smith, R-Euless, the chairman of the House Elections Committee, which met last June to hear invited testimony on what, if any, evidence has been found that would warrant Texas to require voters to present a photo ID before casting a ballot.
There have been 267 requests referred to the Texas Attorney General’s office to investigate voter fraud in Texas since 2002, according Jay Dyer, special assistant to Attorney General Greg Abbott, in testimony before the committee last June. Of those 267 referrals, only 35 have were deemed to have merit to proceed to prosecution.
The Texas Attorney General’s office has not able to identify a case of in person voting ID impersonation fraud. Six years ago Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott tapped a .4 million federal crime-fighting grant to establish a special voter fraud investigation unit in his office as he pledged to root out what he called an epidemic of voter fraud in Texas. Mr. Abbott found and prosecuted only 26 cases of election fraud – all against Democrats, and almost all involving vote by mail (VBM) ballots, a review by The Dallas Morning News showed.
David Simcox, the former executive director of a conservative Washington-based think tank, Center for Immigration Studies, that favors less immigration, has said an estimated 1.8 million to 2.7 million non-citizen immigrants in the U.S. may be illegally registered to vote, thereby potentially influencing the outcome of the upcoming presidential and congressional elections.
Using population estimates from the Census Bureau and Texas county registration data, Mr. Simcox calculated in 2008 that Dallas, Harris, Starr and Presidio counties, as well as others, had higher numbers of registered voters than those who are eligible, which may indicate approximately 333,000 non-citizens are registered to vote and they likely vote for Democratic candidates.
Such claims are the reason Republicans have made Voter Photo Id for in person voting such a high legislative priority.
Elections administrators across Texas have said that there’s no proof that county officials are registering a significant number of non-citizens to vote.
“I don’t think we are, and I have no evidence that we have people over registered to vote,” said Dallas County Elections Administrator Bruce Sherbet when interviewed for a 2008 Dallas Morning News story. Steve Raborn, elections administrator for Tarrant County, said in the same 2008 Dallas Morning News story that a two-year investigation by his office of questionable voter registrations in 2004 and 2005 found only three non-citizens on the county voter rolls, and they were later removed.
Voter impersonation fraud is difficult to carry out in Texas or any state because statewide centralized voter-registration certification and databases were mandated in the 2002 Help America Vote Act. The federal HAVA law requires all election districts in a state or U.S. territory to consolidate their lists into a single database electronically accessible to every election office in the state or territory.
In Texas, each voter registration applicant must enter a driver’s license number or Social Security number on his or her registration application before submitting it to the county Election Registrar’s office. Every voter registration application is sent to the Texas Secretary of State (SOS) office, which verifies citizenship and true identity of the applicant by validating the driver’s license number or Social Security number entered on the application.
If the applicant’s citizenship status and true identity can not be validated by the SOS, then the application is rejected. If citizenship status and identity can be validated, then the applicant’s name and unique identifier is entered into a statewide TEAM electronic voter registration database maintained by the SOS.
Applicants are sent a voter registration card and officially added to his or her county of residence voter rolls only if the SOS’s office approves the application. When a registered voter dies or moves the voter’s registration status is automatically canceled or marked suspended in the county and SOS centralized databases.
Look in your purse or wallet – other than your Driver’s License, what current (unexpired) government-issued photo ID do you find? Do you find a U.S. passport? Maybe; a few people have passports. Some seniors may find a Veterans Identification or Armed Forces Identification Photo ID Card, but they do not have ‘issued’ and ‘expires’ dates. When the voter photo ID law was enacted in Indiana many older veterans, who had stopped driving and let their Driver’s License expire, tried to use their Veterans and Armed Forces Id Cards to vote in 2008. Those veterans who served our county were turned away because every government photo ID card they possessed were either expired or not dated.
If you don’t own a car, and therefore never bothered to get a Driver’s License, you likely do not have a current government-issued photo ID. And, if you can’t drive a car to a state bureau where you must submit your original birth certificate to prove citizenship, you can’t get a government-issued photo ID, and you will not be allowed to vote in any election under the new Texas Photo Voter Id law.
Look at your Driver’s License photo – does it really look like you? If your hair color has changed, you gained or lost weight, you grew or shaved off a mustache or otherwise changed your appearance since your Driver’s License photo was snapped, an election clerk might force you to vote a provisional ballot. And, if you find yourself being forced to cast a provisional ballot, you must make a special trip to the county elections office to offer additional proof of your identity, before your provisional ballot will be counted.
A Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law study (and many other studies) finds that as many as 11 percent of citizens, mostly the elderly, poor and minority American citizens, do not have a current, government-issued photo ID. (also read: Brennan Center for Justice – Voter ID a Misguided Effort) Another academic study of the 2004 presidential election conducted for the bipartisan Federal Election Assistance Commission found that states with Voter ID laws had an overall turnout reduction of 3%, a figure that reached 5.7% among African Americans and 10% among Hispanics.
“This is a racial issue, make no mistake about it,” said Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, in 2009. “This is about skimming enough minority votes so some people can’t get elected.” An estimated 25% of legal, registered voters in Texas are Hispanic and over the next 30 years 78% of Texas’ population growth is projected to be Hispanic.
The recently completed 2010 Census documented Texas’ population grew 20.6% over the last ten years, double the national growth rate, courtesy of the burgeoning Texas Hispanic and black populations. That 20% gain in population earned Texas four new seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The success of Texas Democratic voter registration drives among minority groups in 2008 threatens to tip the balance of power away from Republicans. As the tide of Democratic voters continues to grow across Texas, a government issue photo voter ID requirement for in-person voting would be an effective way for Republicans to hold back the tide.
Consequently, the use of baseless “voter id fraud” allegations to promote voter photo ID legislation is a more urgent 2011 legislative session priority for Republicans, than focusing the on the long list of real problems plaguing Texas families.
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