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The Next War on Early Voting

Daily Beast: Republicans Admit Voter ID Laws Are Aimed at Democratic Voters

I'm generally not very big on covering the "OMG, some right-winger said something nutty. Here's my outrage over that!" beat. But here's something nutty that Phyllis Schlafly said ...

“The reduction in the number of days allowed for early voting is particularly important because early voting plays a major role in Obama’s ground game. The Democrats carried most states that allow many days of early voting, and Obama’s national field director admitted, shortly before last year’s election, that ‘early voting is giving us a solid lead in the battleground states that will decide this election.’

“The Obama technocrats have developed an efficient system of identifying prospective Obama voters and then nagging them (some might say harassing them) until they actually vote. It may take several days to accomplish this, so early voting is an essential component of the Democrats’ get-out-the-vote campaign.”

She later adds that early voting “violates the spirit of the Constitution” and facilitates “illegal votes” that “cancel out the votes of honest Americans.” I’m not sure what she means by “illegal votes,” but it sounds an awful lot like voting by Democratic constituencies: students, low-income people, and minorities.

To which I'll offer a measured response. We had a bill up in the past session to cut the number of days available for Early Voting throughout the state, HB 2093 by Patricia Harless. The bill went nowhere and actually has a little bit of interesting history in that it was pitched to another Republican legislator, Jimmie Don Aycock of Killeen. Aycock, in an exercise of good judgement, opted to not move the bill forward when he realized what it did. What resulted from the Aycock story was that the bill was being peddled by Skipper Wallace, head of the Texas GOP County Chair Association. Wallace's group has been a fairly good marker for Rick Perry's view on bills as there have been some cases where bills pass the House and Senate, Wallace is the only witness against, and Perry ends up vetoing the bill. Of more interest is that the bill was supported by Harris County Clerk, Stan Stanart's office. Just so we know where the battle lines are drawn.

The bill ultimately got "stood down" when Harless was shocked to see so many people opposed to the bill. After all, we're led to believe that the idea for this bill just popped into Rep. Harless' head when she and a volunteer were discussing how hard it was for them to work Early Voting locations over two weeks. You can watch the two hours of committee fun if you feel so inclined. But while the bill didn't make it to the floor in 2013, bills have a funny way of finding their way back with better odds of success a second time around. That's how we ended up with HB148, the bill that will allegedly end mail ballot harvesting (either "as we know it" or "as some have conjured it up in their imagination").

That's what makes Schlafly's comments worth noting here. I fully expect to see a bill cutting the number of Early Voting days in the next legislative session. I also fully expect that Schlafly's quote will come up in that conversation.

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