The meeting yesterday between a few South Texas elections administrators and state Reps. Ryan Guillen and Solomon Ortiz Jr. was significant for anyone who has been following our coverage of voter fraud in the region.
The Kingsville gathering had funny elements, such as the sometimes-ridiculous residency laws for voting, but it also carried the appropriate tone of seriousness that the issue, fair elections, warrants.
That anyone is paying attention to the concerns of the group is a testament to the tenacity of the elections officials, who have been meeting informally for two years as an offshoot of the Texas Association of Elections Administrators.
While most in that association have focused on ensuring all the mandates of the Help American Vote Act of 2002 -- an important plan for elections integrity -- are met, the South Texas folks have talked about their unique issues, including voter fraud. Particularly mail-in ballot fraud. And they talked among themselves, because there was never much interest north of I-10. Until now, perhaps.
Taking it to Austin next year will be interesting. For Tuesday’s meeting, invites went to many quarters of authority. The office of state Rep. Yvonne Gonzalez Toureilles says it never received the invite e-mail, said Roy Ruiz, the Kenedy County official who heads the coalition of administrators. And after initially saying he had a prior engagement, state Rep. Abel Herrero showed up at the two-hour long meeting. He seemed interested and curiousbut had to leave after 45 minutes for another engagement.
One never knows what will come from meetings like this.
Ortiz seemed bent on scoring points for his opposition to the voter ID bill, which promises to be another partisan showdown.
Ortiz spoke of his grandmother, who has voted for years but has no Social Security card, no driver’s license, and really just no form of ID at all. “And she will never get it,” he said. Perhaps there are others who face the same situation: older, established, reliable voters for whom time has proved to be their greatest identifier. There’s an element that hasn’t been addressed in the acrimonious debate.
The run-up to this controversy is not new; recall in 2008 folks in Austin braced for what turned out to be a log-jammer of an issue, voter ID.
“That’s an issue from Washington,” Guillen told Texas Watchdog after yesterday’s meeting in Kingsville. “I’ve been in the legislature since 2003. The first issue like this was vouchers. Now it’s this.”
He wasn’t being divisive. If anything, he seemed to understand the urgency on both sides of the aisle. But “getting Democrats on board for voter ID is going to be almost impossible.”
Guillen added that many of the problems outlined by the South Texas group can be put into the mix of bills in the upcoming session, with the possible exception of one: Mail-in ballot fraud.
“I don’t know how you can legislate that one. You can increase the penalties, but you will hear that we need the prisons for violent offenders.”
The group plans to meet again in November.
Contact Steve Miller at 832-303-9420 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo of a 'Vote here' sign by flickr user Lester Public Library, used via a Creative Commons license.