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Debating Voter Fraud/Suppression in Texas

by: Phillip Martin on Fri Feb 10, 2006 at 01:19:31 AM CST

I wanted to point everyone to an ongoing debate about the rights and abilities of Texans to be able to vote.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott recently wrote an opinion piece for the Fort Worth Star Telegram titled, “Voter Fraud Must Stop.” Abbott discussed his commitment to use a newly created office – the Special Investigations Unit - and a $1.5 million grant from the Governor's office to train local officials so they can stop what Abbott describes as “an epidemic of voter fraud [that] is infesting the electoral process.”

Ed Ishmael, a Dallas lawyer and President and Cofounder of the Texas Values in Action Coalition, disagrees with Abbott’s assertion that voter fraud is an “epidemic” in Texas. In a viewpoint posted on Dallas Blog, Ishmael points out that:

If you add up all of the suspects Abbott references in his article as being somehow involved in election fraud in Texas, it comes to 16…If you wade through Abbott’s carefully parsed words, you see that only three of these suspects have actually been found guilty (all three of them pleaded guilty) and the rest have either been merely accused or only recently indicted so they haven’t even yet gone to trial...Three! How is that an epidemic?

Abbott also counts election code violations as voter fraud. As Mr. Ishmael points out, violations cover everything from “wearing the wrong T-shirt at the polling place to Tom DeLay’s alleged money laundering schemes” – a broad definition, to be sure.

What, then, is the purpose of claiming that these few instances of voter fraud constitute an epidemic? Why the exaggeration? In Ishmael’s opinion, Abbott is attempting to suppress voter turnout by exaggerating the realities of voter fraud. If you look at the track record of Abbott’s fellow Republicans, you may find some truth to that.

During the 79th Regular Session, Republican House Member Mary Denny proposed legislation that would have required Texas voters to present both their voter registration card and a photo ID or at least two other forms of identification in order to vote. The crux of Rep. Denny’s argument was that Texas suffered from a tremendous amount of voter fraud – yet, Rep. Denny could never provide sufficient evidence to support her claim. If Abbott is successful in getting Texans to believe that there is an ever-spreading “epidemic” of voter fraud, then Republicans could gain greater popular support for their photo-ID legislation which, in turn, could ultimately disenfranchise thousands of Texas voters.

In the end, Rep. Denny’s “photo ID bill” (HB 1706) passed the House but failed in the Senate. It was born again as an amendment to Senate Bill 89, but eleven Democratic Senators killed the bill by signing a pledge that threatened to filibuster and forcing the Senate to reject the legislation. However, if we allow people to believe that only three proven instances of voter fraud in ten months constitutes an “epidemic,” then Democrats may not be so successful next time around.

Tags: Voting, Fraud, Election Laws, On the Issues, (All Tags)

Debating Voter Fraud/Suppression in Texas | 28 comments | Time to post comments expired.
Count me confused (0.00 / 0)
This is what confuses me:

".. then Republicans could gain greater popular support for their photo-ID legislation which, in turn, could ultimately disenfranchise thousands of Texas voters."

What exactly about properly identifying voters is disenfranchising?

by: chase @ Fri Feb 10, 2006 at 08:38:52 AM CST
[ Reply ]
It has to do with money
Poor people don't own cars or drive, so they don't have a driver's license.  They  don't have passports either. A photo ID card issued by the DPS is still $15.  You may not think that's a lot of money, but there are hundreds of thousands of people in Texas who have to make trade offs between putting food on their table or paying for medicines. An extra $15 for a photo ID card is a luxury, not a necessity.  So it basically amounts to a poll tax.

Those are the thousands of voters you would disenfranchise.

The Georgia legislature passed this exact kind of voter ID law and it was overturned in the courts.

Voter ID Law Is Overturned;
Georgia Can No Longer Charge For Access to Nov. 8 Election
WaPo October 28, 2005
In a case that some have called a showdown over voting rights, a U.S. appeals court yesterday upheld an injunction barring the state of Georgia from enforcing a law requiring citizens to get government-issued photo identification in order to vote.

Fight 'em till hell freezes over, then fight 'em on the ice. -David Van Os
Get off your ass, so you can put them out on theirs -Hank Gilbert

by: sonia @ Fri Feb 10, 2006 at 09:06:01 AM CST
[ Parent ]
I can understand and empathize with those faced with making the horrible choice of eating today or paying for necessary medication. I do not see how someone in this position cannot pay for an identification card.

At $15, the ID card is good for 6 years. Simple math tells me this comes to $2.50 a year, hardly a "make or break" proposition. I think most would even support legislation that would aid those who can show true economic hardship in obtaining a card.

Without question, requiring photo ID cards would severely cut into *any* voter fraud (no matter how rare it is currently.) If the goal is supporting democratic ideals and limiting the opportunity for funny business at the polls, photo IDs are the best way as of now. If you have another idea that is equally as secure, I would love to hear it.

by: chase @ Fri Feb 10, 2006 at 09:29:19 AM CST
[ Parent ]
You really don't understand being poor, do you
Were you one of the people who watched the thousands stranded in New Orleans and say to yourself, why didn't they just drive out of there.  Why didn't they get on a bus and leave.  You don't understand the concept of living paycheck to paycheck.  Sure the $2.50 a year sounds like a deal but you don't pay for it $2.50 a year, you pay for it all up front.  Then there's the issue of traveling to the DPS to get the card.  Either by bus or by car, it costs money.  And finally when was the last time you got your licence renewed.  It took about an hour didn't it?  These are poor working people and taking the day off to arrange to get a voter ID card is a hardship.  The working poor are not going to give up a half a day of work to get a voter ID card.

This is not about voter fraud.  If you buy that line, you're probably a republican.  This is about suppressing the vote for Demoratic leaning populations, and maintain control of elections for republicans.  In Texas the republicans are terrified of the Latino vote.

In the state of GA they weren't even providing enough locations to get the IDs, including the city of Atlanta.  Here's part of the press release from the NAACP

NAACP Press Release
July 29, 2005
Currently, Georgia law allows voters to gain entry to polls using non-photo identification, including a valid birth certificate, a valid social security card, certified naturalization documentation, a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, or any government document bearing the name and address of the voter. Voters who do not have any of these forms of identification may, under current law, make a sworn statement that they are qualified to vote.

Recent census data shows that African Americans in Georgia are nearly five times less likely than whites to have access to a motor vehicle. There are only 56 locations in Georgia that issue the primary identification required by the new law. Moreover, many of Georgia’s citizens in rural areas who do not have accessible transportation may need to travel through two counties to reach a Department of Motor Vehicle Services (DMVS) office.

Georgia recently eliminated the only two DMVS locations inside the City of Atlanta, the state’s most densely populated urban area, and one which is populated by a substantial number of African American residents. A person living in the downtown, southeast, and southwest portions of Atlanta (which have a substantially high minority population) must now travel 10-15 miles to access a DMVS.

Fight 'em till hell freezes over, then fight 'em on the ice. -David Van Os
Get off your ass, so you can put them out on theirs -Hank Gilbert

by: sonia @ Fri Feb 10, 2006 at 09:52:09 AM CST
[ Parent ]
I'll excuse your insults--I know you didn't intend them that way.

Also, for future reference, quoting racist organizations with blindly partisan agendas is not the best way to help your point.

To be sure, photo IDs would go a long way to ensure that whoever is casting the vote is the person registered. Possibly the is a better method, I don't know. I haven't  heard you propose one yet so I'm assuming this is about inflating the vote for you.

So I ask again, rather than argue back and forth ad infinitum--to satisfy everyone here, to make sure fraud and suppression arent perpetrated by either side, what can we do?

I understand the hardships on the working poor. Voting is the least of their worries.

Finally, I wholeheartedly disagree with your blanket claim that the GOP is terrified of the Latino vote. I have some past with local Republican chapters. In my experience, not only are they as benign an instituation as institutions come, they do everything thing they can to energize the *Republican* vote, rather than prevent the opponent vote (something like the Ohio Dem party slashing the tires of GOP vans on the eve of the '04 vote.)

by: chase @ Fri Feb 10, 2006 at 10:06:58 AM CST
[ Parent ]
"quoting racist organizations"
Now who's being insulting.  I may have said you don't understand being poor, but you just called the NAACP a racist organization.  And I find offense with that.

Now if you want to talk about republican voting suppression tricks, let's bring it on.  Let me count the ways.

Wikipedia link
2002 New Hampshire Senate election phone jamming scandal involves the use of a telemarketing firm hired by that state's Republican Party (NHGOP) for election tampering.

TruthOut Summary Voters Outreach of America - "I personally witnessed my supervisor at VOA, together with her personal assistant, destroy completed registration forms that VOA employees had collected," said Russell. "All of the destroyed registration forms were for registrants who indicated their party preference as 'Democrat.' "

People for the American Way:  The Long Shadow of Jim Crow: Voter Intimidation and Suppression in America Today
Earlier this year in Texas, a local district attorney claimed that students at a majority black college were not eligible to vote in the county where the school is located. It happened in Waller County the same county where 26 years earlier, a federal court order was required to prevent discrimination against the students.

Fight 'em till hell freezes over, then fight 'em on the ice. -David Van Os
Get off your ass, so you can put them out on theirs -Hank Gilbert

by: sonia @ Fri Feb 10, 2006 at 10:39:14 AM CST
[ Parent ]
I can play this game too!
Here are some very recent quotes by Chairman Bond:

"Calling President Bush a liar, Bond told the audience at the historically black institution that this White House's lies are more serious than the lies of his predecessor's because Clinton's lies didn't kill people."

"He referred to former Attorney General John Ashcroft as J. Edgar Ashcroft."

"He compared Bush's judicial nominees to the Taliban."

" 'The Republican Party would have the American flag and the swastika flying side by side,' he charged."

As long as statements like this drip from the mouth of the leader of the NAACP, I will consider it a racist organization. Be offended if you must, I call it as I see it.

And Democratic efforts at subverting the democratic process:

"The GOP rented more than 100 vehicles for a get-out-the-vote campaign on Nov. 2, 2004. The vehicles were parked in a lot adjacent to a Bush campaign office, and party workers planned to drive poll watchers to polling places by 7 a.m. and deliver any voters who didn't have a ride.

The defendants, all of whom were paid workers for Sen. John Kerry's campaign, are accused of flattening the tires at about 3:30 a.m. the morning of the election."

"Ohio was a battleground state in the U.S. presidential election. Yet on election night and days following the election, complaints of voter suppression were widespread. Just this week, John Kerry, defeated candidate for president and U.S. Senator continued to speak out against voter suppression in Ohio. He stated, "Thousands of people were suppressed in their efforts to vote. Voting machines were distributed in uneven ways… In Democratic districts, it took people four, five, 11 hours to vote, while Republicans [went] through in 10 minutes. Same voting machines, same process, our America."

On the other side of our country, widespread accusations of voter fraud have many Washington state voters wondering if the new governor was fairly elected. After eight weeks and three counts, Democrat Christine Gregoire won the governorship by only 129 votes. Election problems in this state include numbers that don't add up. In King County, the number of cast votes outnumbers the amount of registered voters in the county. There are still 1800 ghost votes. Another problem is that the 400 provisional ballots were counted right away and not verified as real voters on the rolls."

Overzealous agents abound on both sides. Do I think either party has a systematic plan to supress votes? No. The general apathy of the electorate does a wonderous job of supressing the vote without any needing any organized assistance.

by: chase @ Fri Feb 10, 2006 at 11:20:15 AM CST
[ Parent ]
I'm sorry but now I"M confused
how does any of this support your allegation that the NAACP is a racist organization?

Disliking Bush or the Republican Party in general does not make you a racist,

unless of course you are conceding that the Republican Party is in fact the party of rich white men. (insert here a light hearted, joking grin)

Prisoner of hope.

by: comeon @ Fri Feb 10, 2006 at 12:53:55 PM CST
[ Parent ]
It Does Not matter how much money it is
It is a violoation of the 24th amendment to the Constitution,

while requiring I.D.is not a Poll Tax, it is the equivelent. If you require someone to pay for an I.D. in order to vote, you are in essence, setting up a Pay to Vote situation, the 24th amendment to the constitution clearly prohibits this.

U.S. Constitution: Twenty-Fourth Amendment
Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.
(Matt, please don't jump on me for not tagging this)

Now if the state wants to absorb the costs of these I.D.'s, them we may have a different story, but seeing as how the state can't even buy books for the public schools, I don't think that's gonna happen.

Prisoner of hope.

by: comeon @ Fri Feb 10, 2006 at 12:46:52 PM CST
[ Parent ]
Voter Fraud (0.00 / 0)
OK let's at least be honest.  If they did try to investigate voter fraud and bring the proof that you speak of, then the Democrats would just claim they're trying to disenfranchise people through voter intimidation.  The Democrats would then come up with two or three incidents, anecdotal evidence at best, and claim widespread intimidation.
This is coming from a white male who was not allowed to vote in the last election because I hadn't sent some previous paperwork and hadn't voted in the previous election, so I was purged from the roles.  Can I say I was disenfranchised?
by: smcwhort @ Fri Feb 10, 2006 at 09:14:03 AM CST
[ Reply ]
You could. I would be upset. But Democrats wouldn't have to point to two or three anecdotes to make their point. As Sonia mentioned above, the photo ID bill can be regarded as a poll tax (as Georgia's Supreme Court ruled) - that's far more serious than any anecdotes.

I'm all for making sure our elections are carried out honestly. But we have 254 counties and millions upon millions of voters in Texas. We're never going to devise a system that is 100% perfect. But changing the system to make it harder for poor people and senior citizens (among others) to vote is a step backwards, not a step forwards.

Now, a very great man once said that some people rob you with a fountain pen.

by: Phillip Martin @ Fri Feb 10, 2006 at 09:21:33 AM CST
[ Parent ]
Senior Baiting Alert!
Just for fairness, Texans over 60 can obtain an ID for $5. Again good for 6 years, this comes to less than a dollar a year.

The poll tax prohibition, if I remember correctly, was intended to end the deplorable practice of requiring minorities to pay outstanding taxes before voting. It was not, obstensibly, enacted to ease voter fraud by any party.

by: chase @ Fri Feb 10, 2006 at 09:32:53 AM CST
[ Parent ]
Why'd the courts
rule that way, then?

Now, a very great man once said that some people rob you with a fountain pen.
by: Phillip Martin @ Fri Feb 10, 2006 at 09:39:30 AM CST
[ Parent ]
I'm sorry, I don't understand your question (although I understand you're tired ;-) )

I suppose you're asking why the 11th Circuit ruled that way. I'm not sure. I will hunt down the opinion of the court in a bit to get an idea what the GA law exactly required. Headlines and popular press don't always accurately reflect court decisions, as we know.

I would say that definately puts into question the practice. I don't think it necessarily proscribes the practice (the 11th Cir doesn't decide for our 5th of course) but the any law on the subject must be carefully tailored to reflect the govenment's compelling interest in limiting voter fraud while protecting the enfranchisement of eligible voters. My argument is that such a law *can* be written (and probably should at some point.)

by: chase @ Fri Feb 10, 2006 at 09:47:15 AM CST
[ Parent ]
A poll tax
So a poll tax is OK so long as it's reasonably priced?

That doesn't make a lot of sense to me. No one should ever be forced to pay any money in order to vote, directly or otherwise. If one claims that poll taxes are valid as long as they're small, what's to stop you from claiming that poll tests are OK so long as they're easy?

Poll taxes are wrong regardless of how much they cost, and requiring a photo ID is a de facto poll tax.

by: Ryan Goodland @ Fri Feb 10, 2006 at 09:51:45 AM CST
[ Parent ]
Bad logic
It's not about money for you. It's about obscuring voter identity to facilitate fraud.

If you were *really* worried about the minimal costs indident with voting, you would support moving voting to Saturday (doesn't Tuesday voting pull the poor from their jobs? And aren't most of them hourly employees?) or allow mail voting (isnt transportation cost in gas or bus fare too high a price to pay to vote?)

by: chase @ Fri Feb 10, 2006 at 10:11:34 AM CST
[ Parent ]
Saturday ED and vote by mail
Well, I support both those things.

ED should be held on Saturday, and vote-by-mail is a good idea; this piece by Oregon's secretary of state notes that turnout was 87% in 2004 in Oregon with voting by mail. But my support for both those changes doesn't preclude my opposition to poll taxes.

by: Ryan Goodland @ Fri Feb 10, 2006 at 10:45:00 AM CST
[ Parent ]
We do support making election day a paid holiday
Why shouldn't the most important day in a democracy, the day we vote for our elected officials, be a paid holiday?

Since we've adopted early voting in Texas, this has gone a long way helping working people be able to vote and not miss work. Many people take advantage of voting at grocery stores.  That's a necessary trip anyway and they have that opportunity for at least two weeks prior to an election.

You're the ones (you and your republican party) that need to make your case for this rampant voter fraud.  Prove your case of this epidemic.  What counties are reporting rampant case of voter fraud? Name them.

Fight 'em till hell freezes over, then fight 'em on the ice. -David Van Os
Get off your ass, so you can put them out on theirs -Hank Gilbert

by: sonia @ Fri Feb 10, 2006 at 10:48:28 AM CST
[ Parent ]
We agree (sorta)
I think ED should be a holiday. Why not?

And PS, I'm not a "republican." Why do I get branded this way? Both parties are run poorly.

by: chase @ Fri Feb 10, 2006 at 11:22:45 AM CST
[ Parent ]
Making it a holiday isn't enough
election day should run 24 hours.  A holiday is just fine if you work for IBM or Exxon, but the working poor work all holidays.  They wait your tables, make the beds in hotels, they sweep, wash, clean and they check out your groceries and mix your paint, they staff daycare centers, the "less poor" work emergency jobs; hospitals, public saftey, etc.  And a look at any holiday will tell you we require that even more when we have a paid holiday.

I say, make it 24 hours on a Wednesday, so people aren't taking advantage of taking a vacation day on Monday and having a nice long "four day weekend".

Another advantage to a 24 hour election day is in Presidential years, ALL polls could open the exact minute and close the exact minute, avoiding early projections.

by: merci_me @ Fri Feb 10, 2006 at 13:50:50 PM CST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, U.S. Appeals Court
Not the Georgia Supreme Court. I need to stop posting when I'm so tired...

Now, a very great man once said that some people rob you with a fountain pen.
by: Phillip Martin @ Fri Feb 10, 2006 at 09:38:51 AM CST
[ Parent ]
Great post, Phil. (0.00 / 0)
I'm sure this will be a topic of conversation at the statewide Tejano Democrats convention this weekend.

And Sonia is spot-on the arguments against as well.

"The Bushite arctic freeze is thawing nationally, but in Texas we're still iced in. Fight 'em on the ice." -- DVO

by: PDiddie @ Fri Feb 10, 2006 at 09:29:48 AM CST
[ Reply ]
All silly- just vote! (0.00 / 0)
This just reminds me of the day I went to the post office and had to show a 2nd form of ID to get a po box. I was told that my social security card was not a valid form of id (the postal worker laughed when I tried to use it), but my major credit card was!!

All my life, valid forms of id are your drivers license/id card, social security card, passport, etc. So in order to vote, Id say you should at least have one of these. And for the poor, everyone has a social security card for free, so having id doesnt become an issue. The election workers just need to know its really you, and not your dead Auntie Mae, voting and to mark you down in the roll.

Endorsed by marshmallow peeps

by: John McClelland @ Fri Feb 10, 2006 at 09:40:56 AM CST
[ Reply ]
You contradict yourself here
You say you were told by a poll worker that an SS card is not a valid ID, and then you offer as solution "everyone gets an SS card for free".

Go back and read Sonia's posts again.

The working poor don't carry passports.

"The Bushite arctic freeze is thawing nationally, but in Texas we're still iced in. Fight 'em on the ice." -- DVO

by: PDiddie @ Fri Feb 10, 2006 at 10:01:25 AM CST
[ Parent ]
Actually I said a postal work. Thats the US post office.

Endorsed by marshmallow peeps
by: John McClelland @ Mon Feb 13, 2006 at 11:18:31 AM CST
[ Parent ]
You have to show identification to vote
You're missing the point.  You have to show your voter ID card in Texas to vote.  If you don't have your card, you have to provide some other form of acceptable identification.

Here's the FAQ page at the SOS site.

Q: I can't find my voter certificate/card. Will I be able to vote without it?

A: If you are a registered voter and you have lost or misplaced your voter certificate, you may vote without your certificate by providing some form of identification (see list below) and signing an affidavit at the polls. This is the procedure to follow if your voter registration is still current and your name appears on the voter rolls in your county of residence. You may also contact your county voter registrar to obtain a replacement certificate.

Acceptable documents are:

  1. a driver's license or personal identification card issued to you by the Department of Public Safety or a similar document issued to you by an agency of another state, regardless of whether the license or card has expired;
  2. a form of identification containing your photograph that establishes your identity;
  3. a birth certificate or other document confirming birth that is admissible in a court of law and establishes your identity;
  4. United States citizenship papers issued to you;
  5. a United States passport issued to you;
  6. official mail addressed to you, by name, from a governmental entity;
  7. a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document that shows your name and address; or
  8. any other form of identification prescribed by the secretary of state.

Fight 'em till hell freezes over, then fight 'em on the ice. -David Van Os
Get off your ass, so you can put them out on theirs -Hank Gilbert

by: sonia @ Fri Feb 10, 2006 at 10:16:18 AM CST
[ Parent ]
must have missed the point
The point is theyre wanting you to have 2 forms of id to prevent voter fraud, right? Not just substituting one for the other? Ok so I got that.

But others are arguing you have to have an id card. You just pasted that you dont. There are other forms of id in lieu of. So Im not sure what your point is other than you dont need an id card to vote currently.

Endorsed by marshmallow peeps

by: John McClelland @ Mon Feb 13, 2006 at 11:21:24 AM CST
[ Parent ]
You only need one thing to vote right now
And it's not a photo ID.  That's the point.  If a voter loses their voter ID card then an electric bill, a paycheck stub or some other form of acceptable identification will suffice. And you only need one, not multiple forms of identification.  The fight is over making people buy a photo ID card in order to vote.

The republicans in office have not proven that voter fraud is such an epidemic that they need to spend 1.5 million dollars to investigate it.  Or that a voter ID bill will do anything about solving whatever minor fraud problem there is.

Fight 'em till hell freezes over, then fight 'em on the ice. -David Van Os
Get off your ass, so you can put them out on theirs -Hank Gilbert

by: sonia @ Tue Feb 14, 2006 at 21:54:34 PM CST
[ Parent ]
Debating Voter Fraud/Suppression in Texas | 28 comments | Time to post comments expired.
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