Texas is one of several states subject to the Voter Rights Act Section 5 pre-clearance whereby election practices or procedures are frozen until the new proposed procedures have been subjected to review by the US Department of Justice. You wouldn’t be too surprised by our state neighbors in the VRA Section 5 pool. You also wouldn’t be too surprised that under the Bush administration DOJ pre-clearance has been relatively easy.
LA Times 3/25/2007
Justice Department tugged to the right Under Bush, the department has been tainted by politics, many say.
The Civil Rights Division veterans focused their criticism on major voting case decisions over the last six years that they say have generally benefited the GOP.The most recent case concerned a 2005 Georgia law that required voters to provide photo identification. Staff attorneys raised concerns about the law after the Georgia secretary of state supplied data showing that tens of thousands of voters might not have driver’s licenses or other prescribed forms of identification. They said the plan could effectively disenfranchise large numbers of black voters.
On Tuesday April 17th, the Texas Legislature will vote on two House bills HB218 and HB626 that will likely suppress the vote in Texas if they become law and are implemented.
NY Times article 2/21/07
Lower Voter Turnout Is Seen In States That Require ID
States that imposed identification requirements on voters reduced turnout at the polls in the 2004 presidential election by about 3 percent, and by two to three times as much for minorities, new research suggests.
HB218 by Representative Betty Brown, requires voters to provide redundant forms of identification. A voter must present a voter registration card and a photo ID, or a voter registration card and at least two other forms of non-photo ID. Voters who do not have the required forms of ID and show up to the polls will be required to cast a provisional ballot. There are no mandates in the bill for voter education or notification of the change in the voting law. Provisional ballots in Texas are already counted at a very low rate. In the 2004 Presidential race of the 36,193 ballots cast provisionally, only 7,770, less than a quarter of them, were ultimately counted. A survey by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law found that as many as 11 percent of Americans, more than 21 million citizens, did not have a current government-issued photo ID.
HB626 by Phil King, is a proof of citizenship to register to vote bill. His bill requires that all voter registrations must include proof of citizenship. Only three documents will satisfy the proof of citizen requirement:
- a certified copy of a birth certificate
- certified copy of a valid passport
- certified copy of citizenship naturalization papers
This bill will effectively kill voter registration drives. No one carries these important papers on their person. And they will be unlikely to trust handing the documents to volunteers conducting registration drives. Therefore, the only way a new voter can register to vote is through the mail, if the person includes a certified copy of one of those documents. Or if they go down to their local country registrars office in person with their papers.
Consider that anytime a person moves from one county to another within the state, they have to re-register and this whole process will have to be repeated again.
Both of the Texas House bills are modeled after Proposition 200 in Arizona which passed in 2004, was temporarily suspended by the Federal Ninth Circuit court and reinstated by the US Supreme Court. An appeal is in the courts.
Proposition 200 implemented harsh voter identification requirements as well as proof-of-citizenship requirements in 2005. The law requires voters who cast a ballot at a polling place on Election Day to present photo identification deemed “acceptable” by Arizona’s Secretary of State, such as a driver’s license, or two alternate forms of ID that include the name or address of the voter such as a utility bill or a bank statement. Such requirements can disenfranchise voters without photo ID by making it hard for them to cast ballots if they live at a residence where someone else, such as a spouse, parent, or roommate pays the bills, or if they are uninformed about the rules. Students, the poor, and senior citizens are among the groups that are most likely to be adversely affected.
Source: People for the American Way.
The bill analysis for Representative Phil King’s bill, HB626 states:
While there is no evidence of extensive fraud in Texas elections or of multiple voting, both can occur and it could affect the outcome of close elections.
There have been over twenty million votes cast in Texas since 2002 in various statewide elections, and not one single case of voter impersonation has been prosecuted by the Texas Attorney General. Proponents of these laws insist that election fraud is rampant and that the purity of the ballot box is being threatened, but they can only provide anecdotal evidence of this. Turnout in the state of Texas is already pretty anemic. Only 34% of the registered voters in Texas turned out fo the last gubernatorial election in November of 2006.
Source: Texas Secretary of State Turnout and Voter Registration Figures (1970-current)
There are two ways to win an election. One is to get a majority of voters to support you. The other is to prevent voters who oppose you from casting their votes.
Source: People for the American Way Report; The New Face of Jim Crow: Voter Suppression in America
Further reading on election fraud: