Republican Todd Smith Set to Pursue Voter Suppression Bill in 2011

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Republican Speaker Joe Strauss continues to show that he picked the right puppet to spearhead the Texas GOP's efforts to disenfranchise elderly, veteran, minority, and low-income Texans from voting.  Todd Smith, the flip-flopping legislator who Chairs the Elections Committee, is set to push his Party's highly partisan voter suppression legislation in 2011 should Republicans control the House in 2011.  

From the Texas Tribune:

“It may not receive attention in the press because of competition from other issues, but in terms of the extent of the contention on the issue itself among the parties or the members, I don't see it as being dramatically different,” Smith said.

Oh Smith, things are drastically different this cycle.  The fact that Texas is in an $18 billion dollar budget hole, with no Federal stimulus dollars set to bail you out this time, you and Rick Perry have a lot more pressing issues and policies to address than highly partisan legislation meant to address phantom issues fabricated to increase and prolong the GOP majority in Texas.

I could see a number of things the legislature could address that is far more important than political power grabs.  

Let's start with the budget, shall we? How do you plan to address the CONSERVATIVE estimates of an $18 billion dollar shortfall in our fiscal state budget?  

  • Novel idea for you and Joe Strauss.  How about convincing Rick Perry to dump $9,999 in taxpayer funded rent for his mansion, his personal chef's (yes plural), and wine magazines for a quaint $1 a month home? That's just for starters.
  • How about addressing the fact that Texans pay some of the highest utility costs in the nation?
  • How about addressing the fact that Texans pay some of the highest insurances rates in the nation?

Texas Republicans continue and demonstrate that their legislative priorities are nowhere near the priorities of mainstream Texans.

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  1. Voter ID Redux
    There is no doubt that the GOP intends to “disenfranchise elderly, veteran, minority, and low-income” Democrats with Voter ID requirements in addition to discrimination that already pervades Texas election law and practice. They own the Jim Crow Texas Election Code now.

    But, a new Voter ID bill can produce a mix of self-rightousness and fear among Democratic legislators that is not helpful. It should prompt better informed and more constructive response than “chubbing” next time.

    The question Democratic legislators should ask and answer in future hearings is “how many” and “where” would the new bill effect anyone. It does not effect groups. It effects individual voters who can be identied and analyzed on the basis of hard data, not estimates.

    Last time around our legislators were motivated in part by secret estimates that were probably misleading.

    Statistically, those two questions are hard because Texas already has onerous Voter ID requirements and an effective system of economic discrimination in all aspects of voter registration and ballot qualification. So, the generic estimates based on national norms overestimate how many more would be disenfranchised here because so many here already have been here.

    But, there should be no need for statistical estimation. There is now a statewide voter roll linked to other state and federal databases. So, actually, the narrow question of who (a) already has a valid voter registration but (b) cannot present the additional documentation required in the new bill, (c) where they are, and (d) how they vote is information that can be answered with hard data that the Secretary of State has access to. In fact, the GOP probably had the real data but they had even more reason to keep quiet and hide their intentions behind bogus claims.

    A reliable answer to the correct question would probably be surprising.

    Moreover, it would go to the matter of resolving pervasive discrimination and intimidation that already exists behind the civil rights semi-triumph over race.

    Remember, we are all minorities in, say, Harris County.

    Our experience here is Democrats win (a) when registration and turnout increase but, also, (b) when voting shifts from election day to early voting and (c) when production of any ID with mag-stripe encoding the DPS uses enables rapid (30sec) ballot qualification with no humiliating interrogation or with definitive correction of obsolete records. Disenfranchisement, intimidation, and just inconvenience, especially for the non-hypothetical and actually working poor, drops hugely.

    Democratic legislators with no opposition in general elections can say whatever they please. But, Democrats with tough races they will barely win or lose need more inspiring messages than just grandstanding over race and poor, pitiful this or that. They need actual relief from the comprehensive economic discrimination in our, in effect, credit-scored franchise.

    The Republican position is clear: Their claims have no foundation in fact. But, their position makes sense for them and their base voters. They do not need facts. They need bamboozlement to sustain their “Permanent Majority” built on dividing and demoralizing a majority-minority state.

    Democatic legislators, on the other hand, really have no base or insufficient base voters to win outside of the districts they have been gerrymandered into.

    We need surge voters and that entails addressing economic discrimination and mobility in all aspects of civic life.

    For instance, if we ever want to see what we call the “Hispanic” vote yield countwide and statewide margins, we have to improve the voting experience of low-wage, young household, transient, no net-worth voters who typically rent and buy cars on “bad credit, no credit”.

    They comprise a disproportionate fraction of the Hispanic census. But, such voters, or non-voters more often than not, are discriminated against and uninspired without regard to race. They do, however, usually have a driver's license and produce it almost daily.

    They keep the address updated despite frequent moves. But, their voting right is suspended again and again. That is no problem, if and only if they vote early in Harris County, where ballot qualification has been expedited by use of the electronic voter roll and mag-stripe on the TDL/CHL/TID.

    So, if we do not want to end up chubbing our own platform again and reverting to the pattern of elections lost before 2008, we should not rely on secret estimates and should inquire as to the real problem of and practical solutions to our ultra-low political participation and ultra-high economic incarceration rates.    

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