Word for the day: microchub.
The “Voter ID” bill is due up on the floor of the State House today, but was initially postponed by Patricia Harless in order for a bill that Rick Hardcastle had on the original calendar for the naming of a highway.
It’s 12:13 and Harless is up, reading the initial argument for the bill. I’ll throw in an update here or there as things unfold. But elections have consequences and more Rs showed up than Ds last time. So the 100+ GOP members shouldn’t have much problem passing an authoritatively restrictive bill to inhibit the ability of people to cast their most democratic right. Next time, Dems … get out to vote. If you can.
Rafael Anchia now up to question Harless about voter impersonation. She says she’s “not advised” on how often impersonation happens. She says we don’t have the tools to detect voter impersonation. After some back & forth on how the current law penalizes voter impersonation, she says she doesn’t want to get into Anchia’s point about whether fraud is scalable if one vote is likely to cost someone prison time and a few thousand bucks in a fine. Harless brings up the 2-vote margin that Donna Howard won by, but as Anchia points out, there were no instances of voter impersonation noted in that contest. Anchia then turns into the administration of elections, referencing Harless’ words that election administrators are “helpless” in the face of voter impersonation. Anchia then reads current law to her, which grants an election official the ability to arrest someone. I have to admit – I knew that, because I would have loved to have some need to arrest someone when I’ve run an election in years past. Anchia asks if someone is granted the ability to carry out the law to this extent, who’s fault is it if voter impersonation takes place. Harless blames the lege.
Anchia shifts a bit, asking why this bill doesn’t address mail-in ballots. Harless has no example of voter impersonation, yet is very concerned about the integrity elections. Anchia notes that mail-in ballots do have numerous examples of problems. It’s a good argument that scores points. But at the end of the day, this one’s about the votes on the floor. It’s a very lawyerly back & forth that Anchia is engaged in. It won’t move a vote, but it at least captures the inanity of this bill.
Anchia’s next argument is about voting rights. The fiscal not has over $2M being spent on voter education. There are $43M in HAVA funds left over from the last sessions. So there will be a request put in to the DOJ in order to use those funds for this purpose. Anchia focuses a bit more on the amount spent on educating Hispanics particularly. Harless runs down the ad budget – $1.5M ($750k for TV, $300k for radio, $300k for print, $150k for internet). Harless points out that there is no designated amount to Hispanics, African-Americans, and Asians. Anchia jumps on this while Harless sticks to talking points … repeatedly. After the third effort, she gives in and notes that there is nothing designating particular outreach advertising. After a bit of evasiveness, Harless notes that there was committee testimony that the Secretary of State would look at “best practices” of other states for outreach efforts. It’ll be interesting to see what the DOJ says about this, in particular.
Anchia then turns to academic studies on the impact of requiring an ID for voting. Harless says they (academic studies) all look alike to her, but she’s not aware of any. Yeah, I know … weird. She “believes with all my heart” that turnout will increase because of Voter ID. She notes the increase in turnout in the two states that have already enacted Voter ID. True. Kinda. Indiana and Georgia both saw large turnouts in 2008. You might have heard about a Presidential election going on about then.
Time is called after (IIRC) one extension of time. Anchia moves for an extension of Harless’ time, which Harless objects to. It’s now amendment time and Anchia once again leads on this front. He references the history of this debate, going back to the Heflin-Vo contest in 2004. He points out that there was one example of the Norwegian voter in that election. I believe Anchia left out that the man voted for Heflin in that election. He goes over the numerous examples, one by one, of the various quests for fraud that others have tried in years past. In each one turns up no instances of voter impersonation.
Anchia still talking, me still reading/searching. Here’s Anchia’s amendment. You’ve gotta love the simplicity of it. Here’s the link for the bill being debated (SB14).
In laying out his amendment, he notes that Texas ranked 42nd (2000) 46th (2004) and 48th (2008) in terms of turnout. In the last one, Texas was 50th. His point: there’s not a crisis of too many people voting in Texas … but there is one of too few people voting. Van Taylor looks to be first up to question Anchia.
Taylor notes that he was an election observer in Anchia’s district, noting that he witnessed a voter attempt to vote with an ID, yet was told that she had already voted. Essentially … he’s offering an example of voter impersonation. Anchia asks if the case was turned over to the local DA. Taylor can’t really nail down that what he saw was fraud, or the result of other errors that take place in the administration of elections. He offers an “Unknown.”
There’s a point raised by Taylor about Voter Registration cards, which gives Anchia the opening to point out that the state could put a photograph on Voter Registration cards now, but they don’t. Voter Reg cards would be redundant under enactment of SB14. So much for small government. Anchia withdraws his amendment at the end of it all.
Amendment 2 is by Helen Giddings of Dallas. Her amendment essentially allows people to sign an affadavit if they have a police report that they are a victim of identity theft. It’s a smart amendment since it essentially mirrors the process for casting a ballot provisionally. Patricia Harless moves to table the amendment. Scott Hochberg now up to question Harless. He asks for clarification about why someone who has had their ID stolen should be allowed to have their vote stolen, as well. Harless suggests that police reports can be faked. Harless notes that such a voter could cast a vote provisionally, but they would have to show up in 6 days with their ID for thier vote to count. Unfortunately, DPS doesn’t work that fast. So, according to the letter of this bill, all you have to do to prevent someone from voting is steal their purse or wallet during late October.
Mando Martinez raises a point of order over whether the bill should read “business days” instead of “days” in reference to how much time you have to get back to the downtown election office to prove you were who you (provisionally) said you were on Election Day. Unless Gidding’s amendment passes, it won’t matter to victims of identity theft in October. They’re just out of luck.
The Trib’s Julian Aguilar tweets: Point of order by Armando Martinez, D-Weslaco. Alleges bill violates House rules because it does not properly define a “business day.” Welcome to “Sonogram 2.0.” Things are slowed to a crawl now while they figure out the meaning of “business day.”
More newsie reading while the House stalls. TX Observers’ Abby Rapoport notes that the necessity of the bill going through pre-clearance with DOJ. That’s what makes this debate so critical – demonstrating the possible alleviations that the House GOP could have taken, but aren’t willing to.
Straus is back up to clarify the point of order. It’s sustained. That kicks the can for another day on this bill.