I just worked 17 hours, am revving up, seeing double, voter suppression is back on the agenda, fireworks under the oink dome all day. I’m going to spend the weekend researching the researchers, but will post a music video in the meantime to bless your eyes.
Anyone who’s a political junkie would have loved this display; heroism, giggles and the hair-raising wingnut gall smacked down by truth machine Rafael Anchia time and again, 10 hours, a shot from both sides, and it’s only the beginning. Did you know that a near-death Senator Gallegos laid here for a week last year to keep this from passing? On the senate floor! Good night sleep tight, y’all come back now, but first, a chunka my 5,000 word summary of the best free entertainment in Texas:
House Committee on Elections:
Justin Levitt of the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law said eligible American voters are hurt by voter ID and proof of citizenship laws, and that he doesn’t want Texas legislators to be “sold a lot of snake oil” by proponents of voter ID. He told the Committee to look hard at the problem — make sure it is real, tailor the solution to make certain it corrects the problem, and make certain it does not make the problem worse.
Chair Berman asked what the witness thought about Texas implementing voter ID.
“It’s an awful idea, Mr. Chair, research shows that the poor, elderly, and minorities are overwhelmingly shut out, not because they are not citizens, but because they simply don’t have the papers.” Levitt said Americans do not need ID to get on a plane, rent a car or video, they are asked for it yes, but commercial enterprise understands that not all Americans have photo ID. He said that airports deal with citizens who lack identification by subjecting them to extra procedures and more intrusive security measures. Representative Anchia asked where the witness would put the right to rent a video and board a plane in the hierarchy of rights, are they constitutional rights? No, said Levitt, voting comes before all others and is so important we need to make sure people have no barriers to exercising that right. The Chair noted that the State was prepared to give the poor free photo ID last session, Levitt replied that a person has to possess ID in order to obtain a photo ID, that his organization has facts on the number and sorts of people who can’t get ID, and repeated that the size of the voter fraud problem is extremely small, “there are far more UFO sightings every year than reports of the sorts of fraud that photo ID can fix.” He conceded the point that voter ID may increase the confidence in the system of those who have it, but claimed it would not increase the confidence of those eligible American citizens who have been shut out of the system.
Dr. R.P Moore, Elections and Voting Researcher with the Research Triangle Institute in North Carolina stated that it is difficult to get a handle on the facts since social scientists are dealing with a conflicting body of literature, most of it ideologically-loaded by advocate groups, and most of it frankly not rigorous, but trends are beginning to emerge. He said there is growing evidence that there is a population of Americans that don’t have a photo ID. We do know they are disproportionately poor, women, minorities, and likely to vote Democratic, he said. In Texas 150,000 registered voters lack photo ID, not including eligible voters without identification who would be impacted by photo ID requirements. Representative Burnam announced it would cost the State $25 per birth certificate for 150,000 citizens to solve a problem that does not exist.
Dr. David Muehlhausen, Policy Analyst at the Heritage Foundation said the rational conservative position is that this is something the states should decide. He claimed that studies linking lower voter turnout to voter ID laws are flawed, that there is no evidence of voter suppression in states that have voter ID; in fact, he said, turnout has increased by 2%, which shows voter ID enhances public confidence in the electoral process.
Representative Burnam asked what the Heritage position would be in terms of funding voter ID, would they advocate the cost fall on the state or the individual? Muehlhausen replied that it would in his opinion not be a bad thing for the state to pay the costs. Representative Anchia asked if the Heritage Foundation would oppose biographical data and fingerprints on the card, the witness replied that it is a contentious issue within the Heritage organization, but the official position is that Heritage supports voter ID.
Anchia asked the witness why a conservative organization would throw its resources into the voter ID issue. Muehlhausen said voter ID has no impact on turnout, and the Heritage Foundation thinks lawmakers need to know that. Anchia said just because white turnout goes up 2% doesn’t mean that minority voters aren’t disenfranchised by 40%. Muehlhausen testified that he controlled for race and ethnicity factors and according to his data set the implementation of voter ID shows no effect on minorities in one state in 2 election cycles. He agreed with Anchia that more research is needed, and that it will continue to accumulate.
Dr. Gerald Hebert, Campaign Legal Center, Washington, DC …launched a full-throated diatribe naming the GOP as the elephant in the room, suggesting voter ID will shake out on partisan lines. He said that fraud does exist, but every nationwide reputable study shows the incidents are overblown, citing less than a hundred prosecutions per election cycle. The witness gave a profile of 13 Texans prosecuted in 1996. He said attorney general Greg Abbott prosecuted 10 people for mailing the ballots of housebound senior citizens, all of which were African Americans and all voted Democratic. He alleged thuggery and harassment by the Attorney General’s investigative agents, and the misuse of tax monies to subvert the minority vote. Voter intimidation tactics, vote caging and suppression exists in Texas, said Hebert, and is being perpetrated by Greg Abbott , and that office is where the legislative fix begins. The Chair asked for clarification — was the witness accusing the Attorney General of enabling voter fraud in Highland Park? The witness affirmed the inquiry, and Chair said he will forward the witness testimony to the AG office and solicit Abbott’s response.
Tina Benkiser, Chair of the Republican Party of Texas, said there are few prosecutions of voter fraud, because it is very difficult to detect. She described voter ID as a tool of fairness, integrity, common sense and voter confidence, and she recommended that voter fraud be prosecuted as a felony offense. Representative Anchia cross-examined this witness at length, arguing that the measures she advocates would increase rather than decrease opportunity for fraud. He denied the Conservative Coalition claim that 3700 illegals were dropped during 2004-2007, and said his own study which came in today via the open records act shows the number closer to 23 illegal residents. Chair Berman accused Anchia of making inflammatory statements and harassing the witness. Representative Farias said he would like to ask a question and the Chair refused to recognize him, stating he was not a member of this Committee and when recognized earlier in the day had argued with the Chair. Representative Burnam read from Republican Party email alerts he claimed deliberately misled the public about voter fraud in Texas, the Chair instructed Benkiser not to respond to the allegation, saying she was not on trial. Burnam pressed on, the Chair banged the gavel, and Benkiser said she would meet with the representative privately to respond to his accusation. Representative Burnam concluded that Benkiser is personally responsible for inflaming the public for nefarious purposes and deliberately undermining the public’s confidence in the electoral process. With voice shaking, the witness responded that she is in this battle to make certain the citizenry is informed so that no representative under the dome can feed the public its opinions.
In closing, Chair graciously apologized for earlier displays of temper, and said he set the schedule for this day because he knew it would bring out animosities that need to be aired if both sides are to reach a compromise. He invited Rafael Anchia to head a subcommittee to find solutions for mail-in ballot fraud, which the Representative accepted with relish. Given no further testimony, the meeting adjourned at some godawful hour.