Friday, May 22, 2009

Voter Photo ID Bill Up For House Vote, Maybe!

Update Friday May 22, 2009 7:30AM: SB 362, the Voter ID bill, has been scheduled on the House Daily Calendar for floor debate on Saturday - that's tomorrow. The decision by the Republican controlled Calendars Committee last night to schedule the Voter ID bill for floor debate ahead of debating the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) Sunset bill, clean air bill and transporting guns to work bill dares Democrats to run out the clock on those important bills by running out the session clock to stop the Voter ID bill.
Take Action: Ask your state Representative in the House to vote NO on SB 283. Click Here to find your State Representative's contact information.
Original Posting Wednesday May 20, 2009: State Rep. Betty Brown, R-Terrell, who remarked, "Asians should change their names to make them ‘easier for American [election workers] to deal with," as the House Election Committee heard public comment on the bill earlier this session, had planned to hold a midday press conference Wednesday. Brown plans to try to amend SB 362, as soon as it is called to the House floor, to make photo identification at the polls an absolute requirement.

The Senate's bill allows voters to present either a government photo ID, such as a driver’s license, or two non-photo documents, such as a voter registration card and a water bill, at the polls.
Nearly 60 House Democrats held their own press conference in advance of Rep. Brown's press conference and suggested a donnybrook may ensue on the House floor if Republican House leaders (i.e. House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio) allow SB 362 to advance to the House floor.

Bear in mind, while Republicans officially control the House, 76 Republicans to 74 Democrats, that as long as House Speaker Straus continues the tradition of not voting on legislation, any straight partisan vote will be a 74-74 tie, on which legislation fails to pass, while Rep. Ed Kuempel (R) remains sidelined in the Hospital. Speaker Straus has already said he has no plans of voting on the Voter ID bill, plus, two House Republicans, Reps. Tommy Merritt of Longview and Delwin Jones of Lubbock, sided with Democrats against a similar bill in the 2007 legislative session. Neither Republican has announced a change in position this year.

It is notable that only 71 of the 76 House Republicans recently signed a "statement of principles" letter calling for the restrictive photo ID measure.

The deadline for Senate-originating bills to be taken up on the House floor is midnight next Tuesday May 26th. It will very likely be scheduled for the House floor, but it depends on the House Calendars Committee. The Calendars Committee is made up of 8 Republicans and 5 Democrats with Republican Brian McCall in the chairman's seat and Democratic Eddie Luio III in the Vice-Chair seat. No doubt this Republican heavy committee will vote the voter ID bill to the House floor by May 26, unless, that is, Speaker Straus has a quiet word with committee chairman McCall. (Track SB362 progress in the legislature -- Check the House Calendar)

House Democrats maintain that:
Requiring voters to present a government-issued photo ID to vote is a flawed solution to a made-up problem. Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott spent $1.4 million in a two year investigation attempting to locate voter ID fraud and failed to identify anything more than 26 cases where people forgot to sign and address the absentee ballot envelope.

Republican maneuvering has every appearance of a disparate scheme devised to stack the deck in favor of Republicans in the 2010 legislative elections. Republicans are anxious to maintain control of the Texas House and Senate to give them the upper hand in the federal and state redistricting decisions that the Legislature is scheduled to make in 2011 following the 2010 U.S. census.
The Texas photo Voter ID bill is part of the Republican agenda to keep Republicans in office by suppressing the vote of groups that tend to vote Democratic. In the 10 states that have already passed voter picture ID laws, voter participation is down about 3 percent. However, black and Hispanic voter participation is down more than 10 percent in those states. The success of Democratic voter registration drives among these Texas groups in 2008 threatens to tip the balance of power away from Republican candidates in future elections. 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.
It is notable that only 71 of the 76 House Republicans recently signed a "statement of principles" letter calling for the restrictive photo ID measure. To date, most of the 74 House Democrats oppose a restrictive voter photo ID requirement, but Rep. Joe Heflin, a Democrat on the House elections committee who voted for the voter Id bill in committee, has reportedly said he is leaning toward supporting a photo ID law. Rep. David Farabee's (D-Wichita Falls) has also comment that he could support a voter ID bill that had a phase-in period.

There's another wild card - the possibility that Gov. Perry will call a special session of the legislature, after the regular session adjourns, should the legislature not pass the most important issue facing Texans.

The advantage for Perry in calling a special session is that it gives him another 30 days to pander to his base, as well as the chance to pick up Democrat bashing talking points, like voter ID, that fall victim to the calendar.

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