Monday, March 09, 2009

Voter ID Debate Set to Begin Tomorrow

All year it has been like an approaching maelstrom. The Voter ID Bill, also known as SB 362 authored by Republican State Senator Troy Fraser (R – Horseshoe Bay) is set to be debated, and individuals who want to give testimony against this bill are being solicited to appear tomorrow and be heard.

The first thunderclap was a rule change in the state senate. The usual 2/3ds rule, where a bill cannot be considered in the state senate without a 2/3 majority vote, was waived on the second day of the 81st Legislature. Now, and for this matter only, this will require only a simple majority in the Senate for the bill to be brought to the floor.

It will be remembered that during the last legislative session, a similar voter ID bill was turned aside in the senate by a single vote, that of State Senator Carlos Uresti, who took a gamble with his very life and had his hospital bed trundled into the senate to cast his vital “No” vote to prevent the bill from being debated in the Senate.

Senator Uresti was recovering from a very recent liver transplant operation.

So the bill is a shoe-in in the state senate, with a 19-12 Republican majority.

The state house, though, is a whole different animal.

With a very tight 76-74 majority in the House, Republicans are less assured of a victory there.

Especially given the past performance of two returning Republican State Reps, Rep. Delwin Jones (R – Lubbock), and Rep. Tommy Merritt (R - Longview). Both Jones and Merritt voted against the 2007 Voter ID bill.

This article in the Austin American-Statesman reveals that while neither of them will say how they will vote in the upcoming foecal storm, saying that they are going to wait and see what happens in the Senate, Jones has said in the past that poll workers would be harder to recruit if they were required to ask for the proper photo ID from voters, adding “I haven't seen any strong evidence of illegal voting.”

By the same token, Senator Merritt seems to be equally lukewarm to the notion of having a voter ID law in Texas: “The party is not focused on what's important to the people.” Of greater interest to his constituents, claims Merritt, are “economic woes, the decline in their 401K funds and how to survive in retirement

And it is true that there is no evidence of voter fraud in Texas, the condition that SB 362 seeks to remedy. Despite the excessive efforts of Texas AG Gregg Abbott, who has, according to reports, spent $1.4 million investigating alleged voter fraud cases throughout the state, he has yet to come up with a single voter fraud case. Abbott has not seen one successful prosecution, only a bunch of harried senior citizens of the minority persuasion.

That and a set of suspect documents from South Texas. Documents suspected to be doctored.

Whatever the outcome, tomorrow will be a display of vintage Texas Politics, the politics that make you cringe when the Legislature comes in session, and the politics that make you wish for a real legislature made up of people who spend all of their time in public service.

And are paid a living wage for the service.

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