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Disenfranchisement, A Little Bit Bigger in Texas

by: nicholasnchan

Tue Apr 29, 2014 at 05:22 PM CDT

The saying goes, everything is bigger in Texas, including our bigots at the capitol. Don't get me wrong, I'm all about Southern comfort and hospitality, but Texas' new voting law isn't so comforting. The voting ID law passed simply asks for identification before being allowed to vote. Besides of course excluding immigrants who lack these documents and senior citizens who can't always find the means to have updated identification-the ramifications of this bill now targets Texas women and trans folks.

You may have seen the sexist "End Women's Suffrage" video prank where a guy asks passing women to sign a petition to end women's suffrage. Well, the joke is no laughing matter when it has real world implications. The new bill creates a barrier for women to vote because there presents an issue where newly married or divorced women, don't have matching identification if they decided to change their name. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, a third of women lack accurate identification with their legal names.  For the transgender community, 27% in Texas lack the accurate form of identification.  Now, trans folks face even more difficulty in having a voice in Texas politics.

The arduous process of getting the right form of identification is complicated in itself. The process is explained: "ordering a new copy of your birth certificate or marriage verification means travelling in person to the state capital, something largely impossible for senior citizens or people with day jobs...you can also wait 6-8 weeks to have it mailed to you and pay $22 plus up to $19.95 in mailing costs."

This law could make Texas politics heavily bogged down by male politicians and male voices to benefit the male population. Senator Van De Putte put it best, "at what point does a female senator have to raise her voice or her hand to be heard over her male colleagues in the room?"

A huge population has to jump through hoops and barriers just to exercise their constitutional right and have their voice  heard on issues that directly affect them. It's no wonder Wendy Davis had to take a stand on abortion access. I feel like the longer I live in the Texas, the further back I go in history. The November 5th elections are approaching and Texas residents should vote early to avoid any possible problems with the new voting law in place. When it comes to disfranchising populations, Texas does it just a little big bigger. Yee-haw.

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Voting and Housing are Two Essential Aspects of the American Dream

by: Travis County Democrats

Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 04:51 PM CST

The right to vote and access to affordable housing are essential to the American Dream.

In Texas, the Republican leadership has severely restricted the voting rights of women and minorities, despite the prohibitions of the Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Travis County residents should not allow confusion around the new Voter ID Law to keep them from exercising their right to vote. Although there is no presidential or gubernatorial race on the ballot, there are very important items on the ballot that will help determine the course of Austin and of Texas, from Constitutional Amendments to a state representative special election, to Affordable Housing Bonds.

Leaders of both the Texas Democratic and Republican Parties are supporting Proposition 6, a Constitutional Amendment that would commit about $2 billion from the Texas 'Rainy Day Fund' to water projects across the state, including Travis County Senators Kirk Watson and Judith Zaffirini. Austin, along with other cities across Texas, is continually ranked in the top 10 among places to live and work. It is imperative for Austin to help our region and state plan for expected growth by ensuring that water is available to all Texans.

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Hispanics Could Deliver Congress To Democrats in 2014

by: Joe Deshotel

Wed Jul 24, 2013 at 03:40 PM CDT

New analysis by Latino Decisions shows Hispanics in 44 battleground congressional districts held by Republicans are poised to make a difference next November. The study comes on the heels of a June 6th vote in which every house Republican voted to defund President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Democrats need to pick up 17 seats to have a different outcome in Congress, and this study reveals that the long talked about demographic shift is finally becoming imminent.

The study grouped the districts into "3 tiers" based on the likelihood that Hispanics could influence the outcome. The first tier includes Texas' 14th congressional district currently held by Randy Weber. In 2012, Obama lost the suburban Houston district to Mitt Romney 60/40 but Weber only beat his challenger by 8.9%, the Latino Voting Age population is 19.2%. A recent Gallup poll shows that 60% of Hispanics side with the Democrats' immigration policy.

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Empowering The Vote

by: shaltom

Fri May 10, 2013 at 07:16 PM CDT

Greetings and Salutations BOR Readers!

This is my very first post on BOR. As many of you know, after leaving my former job, I starting an organization called Empower The Vote Texas to focus on voting rights and election reform. In Texas, of course. The legislative session has kept me pretty busy, fighting back against attempts to restrict voting rights and pushing forward practical, common sense changes to improve election administration.

Most noteably, House Bill 148 by Rep. Burkett just received a hearing in the Senate State Affairs Committee (after passing in the House) and is pending a vote in that committee. The bill could potentially make criminals of Good Samaritans who simply try to help their friends and neighbors by taking their sealed mail ballot to the mailbox. ETVT has opposed this legislation from the beginning and has worked hard to try to stop it, but the Senators need to hear from their constituents (you) that this is a very bad idea.

Additionally, there are several pending voting rights court cases that either directly involve or will impact Texas that I'm watching closely. The big one, Shelby County v Holder, is expected to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in June.

Hopefully, you're already connected to ETVT and you've been following along at home. For those of you who haven't, below is a link to our latest "Weekly Update". It contains a status update of the election legislation action, the latest happenings in court, links to state and national news about voting rights and election reform, a preview of the week to come in the Lege, and suggested action items.

Weekly Update

Thanks for reading!

Sondra Haltom
Empower The Vote Texas

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Revisiting Scalia's Racial Entitlement SNAFU

by: Edward Garris

Tue Mar 19, 2013 at 02:00 PM CDT

It's a bad week for civil rights.  

As Adam Liptak reported in The New York Times, the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday heard oral arguments in yet another case concerning voting rights.  This one addressing "whether Arizona can require proof of citizenship from people seeking to register to vote in federal elections."  Additionally, as reported in The Atlantic Wire, the Supreme Court is likely to soon issue an opinion in the Abigail Fisher case - the case challenging the use of race in college admissions - and specifically at The University of Texas at Austin.

Learn more below the jump about how Antonin Scalia recently dismissed the right to vote as a mere racial entitlement.  

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Thousands of Eligible Voters Targeted for Removal from Texas Voter Rolls

by: Nick Hudson

Tue Jun 05, 2012 at 09:30 AM CDT

Thousands of eligible voters are likely to be kicked off the voter rolls by the the Lone Star State through no fault of their own, as Texas continues to utilize faulty procedures, inaccurate databases, and outdated computer programs to purge its voter lists, the Houston Chronicle reported on Sunday:

"More than 300,000 valid voters were notified they could be removed from Texas rolls from November 2008 to November 2010 -- often because they were mistaken for someone else or failed to receive or respond to generic form letters, according to Houston Chronicle interviews and analysis of voter registration data."

County election offices reportedly utilize an unreliable "matching" method to identify voters to target for removal from the rolls, where voter registration records are matched to lists of individuals who are ineligible to vote. Such lists include deceased persons, persons with disqualifying criminal convictions, and voters who claimed to be non-citizens to avoid jury duty. To be targeted for removal, all that may be required is that you share a last name and birthdate with someone who has died or been convicted of a crime. This matching method yields predictable errors, and it has already led to legitimate voters being targeted for removal from the voter rolls.

Registration records that are matched to ineligible persons are placed on the list of "suspended voters." Once on the list of suspended voters, voters are purged from the voter rolls if they don't vote or update their information for two consecutive federal elections. Ten percent of Texas voters' registration is currently "suspended", including 20 percent of voters under 30.The Houston Chronicle again:

"In Harris County alone, more than 100,000 voters share their name with at least one other voter. The phenomenon is even more common among Hispanics -- a fact that worries voter participation activists like Garcia, the former county commissioner, who shares her name with 35 other county voters.


Statewide, 21 percent of the people who received purge letters later proved they were valid voters, compared with 16 percent in Harris County, according to a Chronicle analysis of the latest U.S. Election Assistance Commission data. Other counties had higher percentages: 37 percent of voters who received removal letters in Galveston County were valid voters, 40 percent in Bexar County and 70 percent in Collin County."

While removing duplicates and keeping voter rolls up-to-date is both reasonable and legally necessary, our current procedure for purging the rolls doesn't do enough to protect legitimate voters. It also seems that the current procedure may rely too much on the discretion of elected officials to target registrants for removal and initiate the removal process.

As Harris County learned in its experience with Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector and Voter Suppressor Paul Bettencourt, who quit his job one month after winning a third term in office in the face of a lawsuit filed by the Texas Democratic Party for violation of voter registration laws, it may not be a good idea to rely firmly on staunch partisans to protect everyone's right to vote. Quittencourt, who lied to the Texas House Elections Committee about "381 ironclad" cases of of voter fraud that turned out not to be so ironclad during Voter ID hearings, rejected thousands of voter registration applications based on technicalities. He denied applications that provided Social Security numbers in lieu of license numbers - but failed to check the box that says they lack a license. Quittencourt also rejected voter registration applications from voters who had recently moved because his office was using outdated property records, and he created a massive backlog of voter registration cards that prevented voters who had registered legally from casting regular ballots in 2008.

Quittencourt's successor, Lying Leo Velasquez, was also sued by the Texas Democratic Party for denying valid voter registrations, failing to register voters because of an overly technical review of registration applications, releasing voter registration data under different terms to different groups, disclosing certain voting procedures only insofar as disclosure benefited his political allies, failing to secure pre-clearance for changes in voting requirements, and violating an agreement the Texas Democratic Party had negotiated after Quittencourt prevented voters from casting regular ballots.

It's clear, with hacks like Quittencourt and Lying Leo Velasquez running elections, that we need to ensure voter purges are conducted in a way that protects legitimate voters from incompetence and partisan political machinations. If legislators are aware of problems with present procedures for purging voter rolls, and they maintain the current system through the next session, I may begin to wonder if some of the folks at the pink dome possess a cavalier disregard for voting rights.

It's worth considering what could be done, so please consider this report from the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law: Voter Purges

You can verify you are still eligible to vote at the Texas Secretary of State Website.

"This right to vote is the basic right without which all others are meaningless. It gives people, people as individuals, control over their own destinies." - Lyndon Baines Johnson, 1957
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The Movement Continues: Hermanos de East Austin Has a Reunion for the Familia!

by: bnvalencia

Mon Feb 20, 2012 at 10:19 PM CST

(Lots going on in Austin today -- stop by Rabbit's on East 6th and check out the energy behind Hermanos de East Austin! - promoted by Katherine Haenschen)

Have you ever been to a family gathering where you end up meeting family members you didn't know you had? You know, the ones where you meet the second cousins with your same name and birthday?

Hermanos de East Austin wants to introduce YOU to your extended familia on the Eastside. Come have a few cold ones with your new-found familia, listen to some great Tejano music (provided by DJ Mixtzin), and find out how YOU can be a part of the movement to enact change in the Eastside community! Start by registering to vote, changing your address on your voter registration card, or bring a friend who has yet to register! This is a crucial voting year, as we will be voting for our next president, so bring the whole familia!

Some of the 31 voter registrars sworn in on February 11th at the first Hermanos meeting will be helping out.

Where: Rabbit's Lounge
1816 E. 6th Street
East Austin, Texas 78702

When: Saturday, February 25, 2012
4:00 PM to 8:00 PM

Ahi nos vemos! See you there!

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Hermanos For the Future

by: bnvalencia

Tue Feb 14, 2012 at 10:57 PM CST

(There's a renewed sense of excitement and energy in East Austin thanks to some local leaders who are building progressive infrastructure from the ground up. Check out Hermanos de East Austin and get involved. Their Facebook page is here and their Twitter account is @HermanosDeEATX. - promoted by Katherine Haenschen)

On my first day of teaching, I asked some of my students what they expected from me as a teacher. One student responded, "We just want you to get to know us like family." They wanted me to understand that they were going to make mistakes, that they weren't perfect, but that they had needs. Most importantly, they wanted to know that I would be there for them when they needed me most. Hermanos de East Austin, the brainchild of East Austinite Jose Velasquez, is asking the same of the politicos representing the Eastside community, but is not willing to wait idly by to see who responds.

Though I am not currently a resident of the Eastside, I have joined Hermanos de East Austin in their efforts. My time working there in educational and social services  taught me a lot about what East Austinites are looking for. More importantly, many of those I love reside there. Eastside is familia now, and we take care of each other. The Velasquez family, who have carried a legacy as residents of East Austin for decades, understand what being part of the Eastside familia means and through Hermanos de East Austin aim to spread the sense of responsibility that comes with the familia of the Eastside.

Hermanos de East Austin is composed of a group of people that are tired of being bystanders, a group of people that are not prepared to let their familia down and watch as it withers away in the hands of those who have never even remotely attempted to understand its needs. Hermanos aims to acquire more information about the community's true and most immediate needs, to empower residents to take responsibility for their own communities, and to embrace EVERY member of the familia.

At the Saturday morning Hermanos inaugural meeting this past February 11th, thirty-one group members became deputized to become a voter registrar, most of whom have never been civically active in any way. Jose Velasquez explained, "We're here today because I got tired of looking around for heroes, I got tired of looking around for leaders and tired of looking for someone else to do it. We're here today because I realized that each of us can contribute and are leaders in our own right." Leadership, for Jose and the rest of the Hermanos, begins with giving the Eastside community a voice. The 31 voter registrars will begin reviving the voice of the Eastside by registering the thousands of untapped potential Eastide voters.

Council Member Mike Martinez, present at the meeting, emphasized the importance of enacting change in the community. "There is the Austin we show, and then the Austin we know," he stated. To say that that the Austin we know has neglected the evolving Eastside is an understatement. The Austin we know has allowed there to be an insufficient amount of quality social services where they are most needed, especially those that provide relief for homelessness, hunger and lack of healthcare. The Austin we know has unjustly forsaken the education of Eastside students, most of which are students of color, standing watch as the dropout rate increases and as crucial educational programs remain underfunded or are completely cut. The future of East Austin, and America, hangs in the balance.

So why should this matter to you? Well, if there is anything I've learned as an educator it's that the problems of East Austin are no longer contained east of I-35, but so many are rooted there. As Council Member Martinez stated, "We've got to do something about the Austin we know, or we will lose the Austin we show." It is time for us to stop waiting for a hero. We ARE our own heroes. We ARE our own voice. And who better to know what familia needs than your hermanos and hermanas? Join the familia. Join the movement. The tide is coming.  

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NewsTaco's Latino News Roundup: Murdock, Perry, Poverty, Ed, Immigration & The Border Patrol

by: NewsTaco

Thu Sep 29, 2011 at 11:07 AM CDT

(NewsTaco is a leading Latino news site. BOR is excited to welcome their weekly wrap-up of important stories. - promoted by Katherine Haenschen)

Steve Murdock: Educating Latinos Vital To Future Of U.S. - Former Texas Demographer Steve Murdock discusses the implications of the changing Latino population and the future of Texas.

More Latino Children In Poverty Than Any Other Group - According to a recent report - "Childhood Poverty Among Hispanics Sets Record, Leads Nation" - from the Pew Hispanic Center, more Latino children are living in poverty, at 6.1 million. This was more children than any other ethnic group in the U.S.

Op-Ed: Rick Perry's Voter Legislation Disenfranchises Latino Voters - The Texas Democratic Party's Dep. Political Director for Base Outreach Rebecca Acuña writes, from illegal racial gerrymanders to voter suppression legislation, Rick Perry seems all too eager to trample on the voting rights of Texans.

First Online Mexican American Studies Degree Launches In TX - NewsTaco reported this week that the first ever completely online Mexican-American studies degree launched at South Texas College in McAllen, Texas.

Is Immigration About Jobs, Humans Or Business? - We asked a panel of professionals from different walks of life about the varied colors of the immigration issue, from a business, political and humanitarian standpoint.

Juggling Optimism & Pessimism In U.S.-Mexico Relations - A discussion of pessimism and optimism revolving around the U.S.-Mexico relations in Texas, as well as interviews with Laredo Mayor Raúl G. Salinas and El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar.

Latina Volunteerism Often Manifests Off The Beaten Path - A recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that Latinos volunteer at lower rates than other ethnic groups but Laura Donnelly Gonzalez, co-founder Latinitas, tells us that Latinas not only "get" volunteerism, but have taken ownership of their volunteerism in ways that will immensely benefit the U.S.

Report: Widespread Abuse By Patrol Agents Along Border - The group No More Deaths released a report detailing widespread abuses by Border Patrol agents of people in their custody. The report, "A Culture of Cruelty," includes information gathered over two-and-a-half years from over 12,000 individuals in more than 4,100 interviews conducted on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, and concludes that there exists "an institutional culture of abuse within Border Patrol."

One Immigrant Son Tries To Be A Border Patrolman, Is Rejected -  A story from Brownsville about a young man, the son of an undocumented mother, who graduated from college and then entered the Border Patrol to provide for the rest of his family. Ultimately, though, he found out the Border Patrol was not for him.

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Rep. Solomon Ortiz, Jr. Files HB 512 to Standardize Polling Hours

by: Karl-Thomas Musselman

Fri Jan 16, 2009 at 11:15 AM CST

Now this is an incredibly sensible idea. I sometimes forget that other parts of the state don't enjoy the same standard 7am-7pm polling hours during early voting. For instance, in Houston, voting ends at 5pm during the first week of early voting which is highly inconvenient for any number of workers who have 9-5 jobs.

This bill, HB 512, is only applicable to counties over 100,000 in population. Via Press Release...

"Currently, early voting hours vary significantly from week to week and from polling place to polling place," Ortiz said. "This bill will standardize the hours at permanent locations and help people avoid confusion when they're making plans to go vote."

The bill requires that  permanent early voting polling places remain open from 7:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. for the duration of weekday early voting in counties with 100,000 or more people.

"During the entire first week of early voting during the November general election, the polls in some counties were only open until 5:00 p.m. " Ortiz said. "That left many Texans without the opportunity to go vote after work."

Before filing the legislation, Ortiz consulted elections officials who conduct elections at the local level.

"As it stands, polling place hours vary from one week to the next," said Nueces County Clerk Diana Barrera. "Rep. Ortiz's legislation will eliminate voter confusion and help make sure more voters make it to the polls."

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