Saturday, February 28, 2009

Fight Looms Over Voter Photo ID Bill In Texas Legislature

According to The Houston Chronicle Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, has alerted senators he plans to bring up the Voter photo ID bill before a special Senate committee on March 10 to obtain approval of the 16 senators required to bring it to the Senate floor for debate and a vote. The Voter photo ID bill could pass in the Senate, where Republicans hold a 19-12 majority, as soon as March 16.

If the bill passes in the Senate, as it likely will, the Texas House is the only opportunity left for Democrats to mount a fight to block the measure. But, it will be a tough fight!

With the Texas House made up of 74 Democrats and 76 Republicans, after the 2008 election, the Voter ID bill will face a tougher fight in the Texas House this year than it did in 2007 when it passed the House, but failed to pass the Senate. That said, Speaker of the House, Joe Straus (R), will likely allow the voter ID bill to go the House floor for debate and an eventual vote, given his comment to reporters on Friday, 16 January 2009, that he favors Voter Photo Identification:
Straus, who voted for the Voter ID House bill in 2007, stated he thinks another examination of whether photo IDs are needed to combat voter fraud is appropriate. He said he does not yet know whether there are sufficient votes in the House to pass a bill.
The Texas Senate on Wednesday, 14 January 2009, voted 18-13, along party lines, to exempt voter identification legislation from the longstanding “Two-Thirds” Rule. The two-thirds rule requires that 21 senators must support a measure before it can be brought to the floor for debate and a vote. The vote was 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.

Under the change, voter ID legislation can be brought up for a vote on the Senate floor with the approval of only 16 senators, not the 21 required under the customary two-thirds rule. (This is the vote now scheduled for March 10.)Democrats could have blocked voter ID legislation under the usual two-thirds rule — as they did two years ago when debate over voter photo ID in the 2007 legislative session paralyzed the State Senate for weeks before the bill was finally rejected.

While Texas proponents of voter ID legislation argue that it's needed to combat voter fraud, there is no evidence that the type of fraud that these requirements address has occurred at any point since records have been kept.

Voter Fraud is the claim that large groups of people knowingly and willingly give false information to establish voter eligibility, and knowingly and willingly vote illegally or participate in a conspiracy to encourage illegal voting by others.

Any claim that voter fraud is rampant in Texas is false.

While there is no actual evidence of voter fraud, many studies, such as conducted by the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University, find that U.S. citizens of Latino, Asian American and African American heritage are less likely to vote as a result of increasingly restrictive voter ID requirements.

Each of the groups listed in the Eagleton study tend to vote for Democratic candidates and are a growing percentage of Texas voters. The success of Democratic voter registration drives among these Texas groups in 2008 threatens to tip the balance of power away from the Republicans. As the tide of Democratic voters continues to grow across Texas, voter ID legislation would be an effective way for Republicans to hold back the tide.

The Voter ID bill introduced in the House during the 2007 legislative session (HB 218) passed by a vote of 76 to 69 when the House was made up of 69 Democrats and 81 Republicans. Two Republicans, who returned for the 81st legislative session, voted against HR 218 in 2007. The voter ID bill introduced in the Senate during the 2007 legislative session was successfully blocked from advancing in the Senate by Senate Democrats.

Straus, who is consider to be a somewhat more moderate conservative, took over the Speaker's Chair from hard right-winger Tom Craddick for the 2009 legislative session with the support of every Democrat in the Texas House. So far, Straus has not shown much appreciation to House Democrats for putting him in the Speaker's Chair and the he'll likely give no exception for the voter ID bill.

Locate your Collin County legislative district representatives in the House and Senate District here. Your Texas Legislative House and Senate District Numbers can be found on your Voter Registration Card. Check your voter registration card information online here.

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