The spotlight was on Republican state Rep. Todd Smith last year during the heated voter ID debate. He was the chair of the House Committee on Elections, which would consider the voter ID legislation that Smith had introduced. From the governor down to local GOP outfits, officials and constituents urged Smith to move forward to get voter ID passed.
A voicemail recording obtained by Texas Watchdog provides a rare look at how heated the voter ID debate became. Listeners can hear Smith unloading on a party official in his district and referencing "stupid" Republican women.
Particular pressure on Smith was coming from his own district. The Tarrant County Republican Party organized citizen calls to ask Smith to stick with an earlier voter ID measure to require photo ID at the polls. Smith had said he supported a less stringent bill, and wanted to delay the ID requirement for two to four years and exempt some older voters.
After the Tarrant County GOP chief sent out an e-mail blast and Facebook post rallying constituents to push Smith toward the tougher bill, Smith left this voicemail message for the party's chair, Stephanie Klick:
"The league of the Republican women, some of them are too stupid to realize it, and it's pissing me off, so bye."
The message was left during the legislative session, in the first half of 2009, on Klick's cell phone.
Smith, a lawyer in the Mid-Cities town of Euless, between the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth, said the comment was directed at Klick rather than the female Republican population at large.
“I was talking to her, because she was the one who had irritated me,” Smith said. “I was frustrated because she was doing things that were making it harder to pass the bill I had worked so hard on.”
Klick doesn't see it that way and said she is still waiting for an apology.
“I think he meant that ‘stupid’ comment broadly to include Republican women who were supporting a strong voter ID bill,” Klick said. “And I would think he would be sorry for calling us stupid.”
Smith said his frustration had hit a high point after Klick began her crusade on her Facebook page to champion the tougher voter ID bill:
Representative Smith has publicly suggested waiting 4 years to implement the bill and has even considered allowing people to register and vote on Election Day. As Chairman of the Elections Committee, it is essential that Representative Todd Smith champion a Voter ID bill that protects the electoral process and is immediately implemented. Why would we pass a bill to protect the electoral process, but then wait several elections before we implement it? The sanctity of the electoral process deserves immediate protection, and should not be delayed for 4 years. Please phone Representative Smith’s office at (817) 283-3131 or (512) 463-0522 and urge him to protect the electoral process by: 1. Making certain that photo identification, is required to vote in Texas. 2. Any Voter ID bill should take effect immediately. 3. Opposing Same day voter registration requirements are a recipe for voter fraud and will dilute the intent of the bill, of ensuring fair and accurate elections The legislative session will end soon. Please call today!
Klick sent a similar, more succinct note to county residents.
Smith responded to Klick’s public blasts to a reporter at the Austin American-Statesman:
"There are 15 people who circulate e-mails to one another and think they have more power than they do have," Smith said. "She doesn't matter; there's nobody in my district who cares what she thinks."
Smith told Texas Watchdog that the information Klick was putting out was wrong, which is what drew his ire.
“I’ve been in office 15 years, and it was the first time I’ve had a party chairman disseminate false information to party members,” Smith said. "She disseminated information to Republicans across the county, what I was going to put in the bill when she had never talked to me and couldn’t possibly have known what I was going to put in the bill."
Ultimately, voter ID never made it through the Texas House.
Some GOP insiders blame Smith for the failure of voter ID to become law. Michael Quinn Sullivan, president of the taxpayer watchdog group Empower Texans, writes that Smith's "purposeful inaction" killed the voter ID efforts:
While State Rep. Todd Smith (R-Euless) has said it was Republicans who killed the recent legislative effort to require photo identification when voting, he is getting it partially right. He's a Republican (sort of), and he made sure it died. We offer here a timeline of his inaction.
Others defend Smith, like Mark McCaig, state Republican executive committeeman, who sent this mass e-mail that was reposted on Texas Monthly's BurkaBlog:
Smith spent countless hours working with members of the legislature and others to craft a bill that would increase the security of our elections. This was no easy task, as the Voter ID issue was the most contentious issue addressed by Texas legislature last session.
Contact Steve Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org or 832-303-9420.
Photo of a cell phone by flickr user samantha celera, used via a Creative Commons license.
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Mrs. Joanna E.H.
Friday, 02/12/2010 - 03:50AM
Well Mr. Smith, you are wrong, more than 15 people are receiving this notification. It made it all the way to NH. In turn many of my friends in Texas will also receive it and they too will share it.
I can only summize Mr. Smith does not really want to go back to Washington. Your insidious and foolish remark hopefully will guarentee it.
We have some dumb butt dust bunny representatives up here in NH but we call them Democrats.
NH. Town Republican Chairman
Thursday, 02/18/2010 - 06:45AM
Mr. Smith gave cover to Democrats that wanted to avoid publically being against voter photo-ID. He kept the bill from the floor long enough for the Texas Legislative session to expire. Dem legislators want the bill to fail, but do not want to be seen opposing it by their constituencies who do not know the lengths to which their party depends on voter fraud. Mr. Smith says that he was only trying to produce a bill in committee that would pass on the house floor. I am sure that 71 Republicans that wrote Todd demanded the bill be freed from the committee thought the same thing. But Todd's purpose was not to produce a bill to pass, it was to delay sufficiently long enough to fail. Todd Smith may be free to become a democrat very soon.