Thursday, December 8, 2011

Texas' Voter ID Law: Stalled at the Department of Justice - Thank Goodness!


There are people who are quick to serve up reminders that our actions have consequences: unwed mothers, the incarcerated, kids who drop out of school...states who secede from the union and after losing a war subsequently impose arcane and oppressive laws on freed slaves and their descendants. 


You got it. As relates to this post, according to Section V of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, southern states which had violated the voting rights of blacks and other minorities for decades with impunity, must have any changes in voting regulations approved by the Department of Justice. Decades of injustice have consequences. 

And this is germane because this past spring, the Texas Legislature passed a Voter ID law requiring all Texans to show a government issue picture identification as proof of voting eligibility in order to exercise their franchise. Because the state can't provide evidence of the impact of voters by race, the DOJ says it doesn't have sufficient evidence to approve the changes in the law. Interestingly enough, conservatives whose cry to strictly enforce immigration laws by saying 'The law is the law', surprisingly are having trouble with this law. 

Personally, I feel that this is the most egregious attempt at voter suppression since the passage of the voting rights act. I think the very attempt signals both a desperation and a disregard for the voting rights of minorities and a determination to hold onto power that is unseemly and dangerous.

Supposedly the law was passed in order to stop efforts of fraudulent voter impersonation. Which begs the question...has there been widespread voter impersonation (a person pretending to be someone else in order to cast a ballot) when Texans voted Rick Perry into office for an unprecedented TEN years? Or when Texas voted overwhelmingly for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004? Or perhaps with the deluge of Tea Party Republicans swept into office by astonishing GOP activism and appalling Democratic naivete and apathy in 2010?

Or was it a fear that all those people who waited for HOURS in line during the primaries and the general election in 2008 MUST have been using some kind of sleight of hand in order elect Barack Obama? 

Now before you answer that question. See if you can answer another: exactly how widespread was this voter fraud that Texas was 'forced' to change its election laws. I mean it HAD to be a virtual crime wave...right? Well not so much, according to an editorial in the Lubbok Avalanche-Journal. As a matter of fact, according to this editorial, there are those of us, who may be overplaying the voter suppression complaint...
"Aside from stories of Lyndon Johnson’s having been the beneficiary in one case of ballot-box stuffing and the victim in another, the evidence of voter fraud in the Lone Star State is more the stuff of rumors and innuendo than credible evidence."
"And claims the law is designed to suppress votes by targeting those least likely to have photo IDs — the poor, the elderly and Hispanics — is difficult to reconcile in a time when such identification is as common as cell phones and, in fact, required for a variety of day-to-day activities."
"The DOJ said in mid-November it couldn’t say yea or nay on the law because the state didn’t provide the racial breakdown and counties of residence of the estimated 605,576 registered voters the state says do not have a state-issued license or ID. They also want to know how many of those have Spanish surnames."
"Since Texas doesn’t ask those registering to vote to declare their race — or, for that matter, economic status — the DOJ may never get the information it says it needs to render a decision."
"Based on the data already sent to the DOJ, more than 95 percent of Texas’ 13.3 million registered voters have a state-issued license or ID. The law in question provides those without an acceptable photo ID may obtain one at no charge."
Ok, so then there MUST have been an epidemic of voter fraud that moved the 82nd Texas Legislature to rush to protect the sanctity of the ballot box...right?

Well evidently Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot thought so. In 2005, AG Abbot used a grant of $1.4 million to investigate the veritable crime wave of voter fraud sweeping through Texas polling places like a prairie fire...The investigation turned up...0 cases of voter impersonation fraud. Zero. Zip. Nada. At a cost of $1.4 million. From the Department of Justice.

So much for conservative fiscal conservatism.

The Dallas Morning News, did a similar investigation in 2008 (the year it is apparent that the crime wave took place, because all Texas elections in which Rick Perry, George W. Bush and Tea Party Legislators were on the ballot were legitimate). DMN found a virtual organized crime ring of voter fraud - 26 cases "...the 26 cases prosecuted were all against Democrats, most involved blacks and Hispanics, and typically involved people who helped elderly voters with mail-in ballots, but failed to follow state law by signing their names and addresses on the envelopes."

So the 82nd Texas Legislature had to put a stop to this, you see. Because another election cycle like this and our  country might be toppled by election fraud terrorists!

Indiana passed such a law and found over a seven year period 9 cases of voter impersonation fraud, sprinkled with a few other incidents of voter misconduct. That's nine cases of voter impersonation fraud out of 400 million ballots cast. Good thing the legislature was on top of this or we could be another Indiana!

The fact is, there are precious few examples of voter impersonation fraud. The facts are that this is a ham-fisted effort on the part of GOP legislators to blunt the impact of a 2008 phenomenon they neither understood nor liked. A fear that that maybe this electorate might actually awaken to the power of that long neglected exercise of their franchise and do something they never considered doing: organize as citizens to blunt the power of organized money. If that were to happen it could be the end of politics as we've come to know it!

If you like the Texas Voter ID Law that the Department of Justice will most likely not approve, be sure and thank a GOP legislator. Tell him or her, 'Good try. But even historical actions have consequences!'

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