Thursday, June 18, 2009

Hundreds Of Bills Died Because Of The Battle Over Voter ID

KUT Austin podcast - 06/17/09
An interesting podcast with Evan Smith and Paul Burka of the Texas Monthly, Jason Embry of the Austin American Statesman and Ben Philpott of KUT Austin explore who they think ultimately caused the Voter ID mess. Hundreds of bills died in the 2009 81st session of the Texas legislature because of a battle over Voter ID legislation.

Did it start in Senate where Republican Tommy Williams of the Woodlands pushed the "Two-Thirds" procedural maneuver to get the Voter ID bill to the senate floor…or with Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, who presides over the Senate?

The Texas Senate on Wednesday, 14 January 2009, voted 18-13, along party lines, to exempt voter identification legislation from the longstanding senate “Two-Thirds Rule." This rule requires that 21 senators must support a measure before it can be brought to the senate floor for a vote. Only one Republican, State Sen. John Carona (R-Dallas), broke ranks to join 12 Democrats in the near party-line vote to oppose the change to the two-thirds rule. The other 18 Republicans voted to exempt any bill brought forward in the Texas Senate that would require voters to show a government-issued photo ID at the polls before being allowed to vote.

Texas Republicans, who control the Texas legislative calendar, prioritized Picture ID "voter impersonation legislation" ahead of other critical legislation on both the Texas Senate and House legislative calendars in 2009.

Democrats opposed the legislation because of its potential to disenfranchise poor and elderly voters who do not have an unexpired government issued picture ID added to the fact that there is no indication that "voter impersonation fraud" actually occurs in Texas.

Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott failed to find a single case of voter fraud in his $1.4 million two year investigation. Plus, according to an article in the Dallas Morning News, county election officials across Texas say voter fraud is nearly impossible to carry out in Texas because of the voter validation checks already implemented by every Texas county election office.

Royal Masset, the former political director of the Republican Party of Texas, revealed the political calculation that requiring photo IDs could suppress enough legitimate Democratic voters, who lack photo ID, that it would add 3 percent to the Republican vote. [Houston Chronicle]

Republican legislators felt pressure from a small, but vocal, core of rank and file Republicans voters who demand photo ID legislation on an article of religious faith that Democratic voter fraud is causing Republicans to lose elections.

So much legislative time was spent on Voter Photo ID legislation that other critical state business did not come up for consideration before the legislature adjourned on June 1st.

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