in Houston, Texas
The voter’s guide to Congressional primaries in Texas and the lay of the land post-redistricting
Wednesday, May 09, 2012, 08:00PM CST
By Mark Lisheron
Capitol

Redistricting in a time of political discontent has made for robust democracy in races for U.S. Congress in Texas.

A dozen Republican candidates rushed into newly created District 36 in East Texas; 12 in a Central Texas District 25 redrawn for Republicans; and nine in the coastal District 14 Rep. Ron Paul is leaving.

Eleven Democrats are clawing their way to the May 29 primary in the new Democratic District 33 in the Dallas area. Eight are running in the new District 34 at Texas’ southern tip.

Challengers are testing 16 of the 22 incumbent Republicans and half of the eight sitting Democrats up for re-election in 2012. Longtime and popular Republican Reps. Joe Barton, Ralph Hall and Lamar Smith and Democratic Reps. Lloyd Doggett, Ruben Hinojosa, Eddie Bernice Johnson and Silvestre Reyes have multiple primary opponents.

Please see a list of all the Democratic candidates running for Congress here. You can find the complete list of Republicans here.

But for all of the acrid political turmoil in the creation of four new congressional districts and a protracted fight over boundaries that made its way to the Supreme Court and back, the makeup of the Texas delegation to Congress is not likely to change dramatically, Steve Bickerstaff says.

Bickerstaff is an election and redistricting expert at the University of Texas School of Law. His 2007 book, Lines in the Sand, is a study of congressional redistricting in Texas in 2003.

The interim congressional map, which has yet to get its federal approval, is a compromise product of overreach by a heavily Republican state Legislature legally entitled to draw boundaries as favorably as possible for Republicans, Bickerstaff says.

“All partisanship aside, the congressional map approved by the Legislature was of questionable legality,” Bickerstaff says. “It isn’t up to courts to decide what is fair. It is up to the courts to correct that questionable legality. Within the bounds of the Voting Rights Act, the Republicans did the best they could.”

Sherri GreenbergSherri Greenberg

This give and take is most apparent in the drawing of the four new congressional districts. District 36 has 12 Republican candidates and just one Democrat, including State Sen. Mike Jackson, R-La Porte, the only candidate from either party with any government experience above the local level.

District 33, on the other hand, was drawn with its Dallas-area African-American and Hispanic voting majority in mind, Sherri Greenberg, director of the Center for Politics and Governance at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, says.

Little surprise, then, that state Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, an African-American, and Hispanic Dallas attorney Domingo Garcia have emerged as favorites from among the 11 Democrats running. The winner will almost certainly beat one of the three Republicans in that primary.

Hispanic voters in District 34 are likely to be represented by one of the eight Democrats in the primary. One of them, Armando Villalobos, the Cameron County district attorney, has pledged to go on with his bid in spite of having been indicted in connection with a series of briberies involving convicted former District Judge Abel Limas.

Less than two weeks before his arrest, Villalobos told the Brownsville Herald that he had experienced a dramatic drop in his campaign fundraising because of the "wackiness" of the primary.

Brownsville attorney Filemon Vela, whose late father was a U.S. district judge and mother the former mayor of Brownsville, is the favorite to represent a district stretching from the southeastern tip of Texas to the southern half of Gonzales County.

District 35 would also seem to favor a Democrat, Lloyd Doggett, of Austin, who is seeking his 10th two-year term in Congress. Doggett has so far vastly outraised and outspent Sylvia Romo, the Bexar County tax assessor.

But the state agreed to a district drawn to give Hispanic voters a 63 percent majority, giving a boost to Romo and Maria Luisa Alvarado, an overlooked political unknown when she ran for lieutenant governor in 2006.

In addition, the Legislature drew Doggett out of his original and neighboring District 25, which has drawn a very conservative slate of 12 Republicans, including former Railroad Commission chairman Michael Williams and former Secretary of State Roger Williams.

The winner is expected to beat unopposed Democratic primary candidate Elaine Henderson in November.

Robert BickerstaffRobert Bickerstaff

“To the mostly white, liberal voters in Travis County what was done to Lloyd Doggett was totally unfair,” Bickerstaff says. “That wasn’t the issue. The Voting Rights Act and what was legal for a district with a predominantly minority makeup was the issue.”

Legislative mapmakers also stretched the Gulf of Mexico District 27 pulling in voters almost to Travis County. The subtle changes were made to help Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, in what remains a swing district.

Farenthold scored one of the significant victories in the 2010 election knocking off Solomon Ortiz, a Democrat who had spent 28 years in Congress, but by just 799 votes. He had been outspent by more than two to one.

Farenthold is now the favorite, facing three Republican challengers with no political experience and relatively little money. (Please see the Federal Election Commission chart for all of the candidates for Congress in Texas by searching here.) Should he win he will face a similarly inexperienced and underfunded Democratic challenger chosen from among four in the primary.

On the other side of the state redistricting produced what is likely to be the most interesting congressional race this year in Texas. Political mavens are salivating over the possibility that recently minted Republican U.S. Rep. Francisco “Quico” Canseco will have to defend his seat for the 48,000 square mile District 23 from a challenge by longtime state Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine.

But first Gallego is going to have to shake free of two Democratic primary challengers, one of them Ciro Rodriguez, who was beaten after serving two terms by Canseco. Gallego had raised nearly $600,000 through the first quarter of 2012 and Rodriguez less than $200,000.

Gallego is a clear favorite to face Canseco, who is unopposed in the Republican primary. After that, Bickerstaff says you can expect a close race in a district that gave Canseco a win in 2010 with less than 50 percent of the vote and which favored Barack Obama for president by 51-48 percent in 2008.

Political cartography has failed to quell bipartisan unrest. Months before redistricting went to court, grassroots Tea Party members promised to shake up a rather deeply entrenched Republican congressional delegation, considered by many outside of the state to be one of the most conservative in the country.

In April, the Campaign for Primary Accountability, a Houston political action committee, promised to help fund challengers to four longtime Texas incumbents it says have outworn their welcome. They are Republican Reps. Ralph Hall and Joe Barton and Democrats Eddie Bernice Johnson and Silvestré Reyes.

Of those on the Campaign’s target list, Johnson faces the toughest challenge, maybe the toughest primary challenge in her 10-term career representing the overwhelmingly Democratic 30th District in Dallas County.

Taj Clayton, a Harvard-educated Dallas lawyer who has never run for political office, has raised nearly $400,000, about $60,000 less than Johnson. Johnson’s other Democratic opponent is Barbara Mallory Caraway, who has represented Dallas for three terms in the state House of Representatives.

Reyes, who has served eight terms representing El Paso County’s District 16, is feeling heat from one of those challengers, Beto O’Rourke, a political newcomer who with the Campaign’s help raised nearly $400,000 in the first quarter of the year.

Reyes, having bankrolled more than $900,000, is spending the money on a campaign to warn voters of O’Rourke’s support for another international bridge for the region and the possible displacement of thousands of families if it is built.

O’Rourke has derided Reyes’ ads as uninformed scare tactics.

Rep. Joe Barton, who is seeking his 14th term serving District 6 south of Dallas, has drawn three opponents, and two of them, Joe Chow, the former mayor of Addison, and Itamar Gelbman, a former member of the Israeli Army, have raised more than $150,000 each.

Barton has over the past several months come under fire by the Washington Post and the left-leaning Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington for his proficiency in winning federal funding for projects that benefit his relatives.

Rep. Lamar Smith joined Barton on both of those lists, but it is unlikely he will be damaged by it. Smith, seeking an eighth term to represent a Central Texas district north of San Antonio, had more than $1.3 million in cash while neither of his two Republican primary challengers had raised more than $25,000.

Democratic Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, on both of those lists as well, is probably as safe as Smith in spite of drawing four challengers in the Democratic primary and four in the Republican primary.

Hinojosa has served seven terms in the largely rural, Democratic 15th District adjacent to District 34 on the state’s southern tip.

And while it isn’t likely to shift the balance of power in the Texas congressional delegation, the addition of Jefferson County to a redrawn District 14 and the withdrawal of Rep. Paul has attracted nine Republicans and two Democrats to the primary.

Randy Weber, of Pearland, completing his second term as one of the most conservative members of the Texas House, is the only one of the nine Republican primary candidates with legislative experience.

But in the first quarter of this year Jay Old, a Beaumont attorney with deep family roots in Jefferson County, raised nearly $200,000 more than Weber and another Beaumont attorney, Michael Truncale, a Tea Party favorite and member of the executive committee of the state Republican Party.

Felicia Harris, a member of the Pearland City Council, has raised more than $200,000.

Each has spent his way to viability.

The wild card in November is Nick Lampson, who is expected to handle political unknown Linda Dailey in the Democratic primary.

Lampson served in the state’s old 9th District for four terms but lost his seat after the Legislature’s 2003 redistricting. He came back to win in a Republican 22nd District, but was beaten in 2008 after a single term.  

The question is how much the addition of Democrats from Beaumont might help a Democrat like Lampson in a still heavily Republican district.

Greenberg figures Republicans will probably end up with 26 of the 36 congressional seats in November, with the assumption that three of the four new districts go to Republicans.

Bickerstaff says the keys will be swing Districts 23 and 27. If both of those districts go to Democrats in November, Bickerstaff says that it is possible that after all of the political and legal effort that went into redistricting by the Republicans in the Legislature on the Republicans in Congress Republicans would gain exactly one seat.

***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

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Like this story? Then steal it. This report by Texas Watchdog is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License. That means bloggers, citizen-journalists, and journalists may republish the story on their sites with attribution and a link to Texas Watchdog. If you do re-use the story, e-mail news@texaswatchdog.org.

Texas AG Greg Abbott and his Republican counterparts amass power, challenge federal authority
Tuesday, Apr 24, 2012, 10:53AM CST
By Mark Lisheron
Greg AbbottGreg Abbott

Texan Greg Abbott is one of the commanders of a new legion of Republican attorneys general in defiance across a broad front of federal legal authority.

Doubling their number to 24 since 2000, these tightly knit Republican AGs have over the past two years coordinated challenges to ObamaCare, its contraception mandate and the Environmental Protection Agency, according to a penetrating analysis today by Reuters.

"There seems to be, in addition to the size, an intensified cohesion and collegiality among the (Republican) AGs," Abbott told Reuters. "Part of it is based on personality. Part of it is based on sense of purpose."

On March 26 Abbott won an appeal of the EPA’s rejection of the state’s permitting process for some power plants. The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the EPA had exceeded its authority in making its ruling.

The state’s top attorneys have pushed back against federal challenges to voter identification laws and redistricting maps passed by their legislatures.

The Reuters story singles out Abbott for his role in questioning the validity today of a section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that forces Texas and other southern states to have all changes to their voting district maps approved by the federal government.

While the Supreme Court did not directly address the issue, the court voted unanimously that the lower federal courts had overreached in redrawing district maps passed by the Texas Legislature.

***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

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Federal panel hears arguments today in Texas redistricting case
Tuesday, Jan 17, 2012, 10:03AM CST
By Mark Lisheron
gavel and texas

A panel of federal judges in the District of Columbia today will begin hearing testimony for and against the maps of new voting districts passed last June by the Texas Legislature.

The three judges are expected to decide in hearings continuing through Jan. 26 whether the state’s redistricting violated the federal Voting Rights Act and discriminated against minority voters, according to story today by the Houston Chronicle.

The panel set Feb. 3 to hear final arguments in the case, which was argued before the Supreme Court Jan. 9.

The timing for decisions in the two court cases will dictate when Texas can hold its primary elections. The March 6 primary has already been pushed back to April 3. U.S. Sen. John Cornyn is unhappy because he thinks the primary will probably be pushed back again, an Associated Press story today says.

Today’s hearing was made necessary because the Department of Justice in a pre-clearance review found the Legislature violated the Voting Rights Act. Texas is among the states the voting act singled out for its history of minority voter discrimination, requiring them to get federal approval for any changes made to their voting procedures.

The Department of Justice called on a three-judge panel in San Antonio to draw a new map, which Texas Atty. Gen. Greg Abbott challenged before the Supreme Court.
 
***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

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Graphic by flickr user Truthout.org, used via a Creative Commons license.
Why the judicial back-and-forth over Texas redistricting matters
Friday, Jan 06, 2012, 11:48AM CST
By Mark Lisheron
gavel

The overture to a judicial minuet that may or may not clarify primary elections in Texas begins with the Supreme Court on Monday.

Lawyers for the state of Texas will have an hour to make a case before the high court that a map drawn by a panel of federal judges in San Antonio meant to supplant one passed by the Texas Legislature is legal.

In eight days after that, a federal judicial panel in Washington, D.C. will take up the dance, convening hearings through Jan. 26 over the legal standing of the Legislature’s map. The panel will hear final arguments Feb. 3.

Those rulings and the timing of this choreographed judicial interplay will determine whether or not it was enough for the state to push back its primary to April 3 from March 6 and extend the filing deadline for candidates to Feb. 1.

At center stage is Section 5 of the sweeping Voting Rights Act, passed in 1965 to make illegal practices that disenfranchised minority voters in America. Section 5 required states like Texas with an established history of such practices to obtain from the federal government pre-clearance of changes, including district maps, made by state legislatures.

While Texas applied for pre-clearance, the Department of Justice found the Legislature’s map discriminatory. A D.C. district court ordered the federal judicial panel to rectify the imbalance with a new map, leaving enough time for the state to prepare for its March primary.

Dissatisfied with a map that shifted political advantage from Republicans to Democrats, Texas Atty. Gen. Greg Abbott asked the Supreme Court to decide.

On its face, the Supreme Court’s purview in the case is whether or not Texas must go ahead and use the map created by the judicial panel. Experts are split about the importance of the case, some saying it will have little impact upon the integrity of the Voting Rights Act

Erwin Chemerinsky, a constitutional expert and law professor at the University of California, Irvine, in an American Bar Association essay, says the high court isn’t ruling on whether or not the Section 5 pre-clearance law is Constitutional.

The Supreme Court upheld Section 5 in 1980 and 1973 challenges, he says. And Congress voted to extend the section for another 25 years in 2006.

The case does, however, raise again the issue of federal intrusion upon state prerogatives. In a 2009 ruling, the Court expressed doubts about a section of a law pertaining to a pattern of discrimination in voting that is now generations old and may no longer be valid.

In the meantime, Texas awaits a decision in one court that will give direction to another in the hope of giving some direction to Texas.
 
***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

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Tea Party activists aim to ‘clean our own house’ in 2012 Congressional primaries
Tuesday, Oct 11, 2011, 06:27AM CST
By Mark Lisheron
U.S. Capitol

Offered up the twin fat pitches of Republican-drawn legislative districts and an increasingly unpopular Democratic president, conservative activists in Texas are, instead, sitting on a curve.

Very quietly and very early, networks of Tea Party affiliates are working to make the March 6, 2012, primary a referendum on the performance of Republican incumbents in Congress, a delegation generally thought to be among the most conservative in the country.

Recent history, conventional wisdom and big party money suggest long odds for real change. All three factors, however, ignore the genuine and growing dissatisfaction Americans feel for the political process, irrespective of party, Alice Linahan, a national and state Tea Party organizer and political blogger from Argyle, south of Denton, says.

Alice LinahanAlice Linahan
“What you aren’t hearing right now are the people I meet every day who want to know how the people they elected did in the last cycle, to hold them accountable for the way they voted,” Linahan says. “We think the primaries ought to be the time when we clean our own house.”

Exactly where the cleaning will begin and how much overall change the 2012 primaries will bring it is much too early for Linahan and others to say. The first day of filing to have your name placed on the Congressional ballot isn’t until Nov. 12 and the last is Dec. 12.

The Congressional redistricting map itself is being challenged in federal court on the grounds that it discriminates against minorities, one of hundreds of Voting Rights Act challenges to redistricting across the country.

U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia in San Antonio issued an order Sept. 29 preventing the state from putting the maps in place until he and two other federal judges complete their review.

Until the case is decided, no Democrat has come forward to run in District 25, since 1994 the liberal Central Texas redoubt of Rep. Lloyd Doggett reconfigured to favor Republicans.

Doggett announced in June that he would run for a seat in a newly created District 35 configured to favor Democrats, which includes parts of Travis County and heavily Hispanic Bexar County. San Antonio Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro, whose identical twin, Julian Castro, is the mayor of San Antonio, said he intended to take on the long-time congressman, pending a final decision on the map.

“The map as passed by the Legislature is illegal, and my hope is it will be changed drastically,” Andy Brown, chairman of the Travis County Democratic Party, says. “The uncertainty puts every candidate who might want to run at a disadvantage.”

This uncertainty has not been shared by Republicans, eight of whom asked that their names be placed on a ballot for a straw poll Sept. 25 in Lago Vista that drew more than 400 voters.

Michael Williams, the former chairman of the State Railroad Commission, took 27.2 percent of the straw vote. Dave Garrison, a retired USAA executive who has never run for public office, lost to Williams by a single vote.

The strengths of a newcomer’s showing against a name Republican politician, however early, was not lost on Rosemary Edwards, chairman of the Travis County Republican Party.

“Right now, I think you are going to see a lot of scrutinizing of individual candidates for their conservative credentials,” Edwards says. “I think we’re at a time at every level where you are going to see very fluid situations.”

There are already four Republicans who have announced their intention to run for the seat Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas City, is giving up in coastal District 14, which includes Galveston.

Fluidity in a district with an open seat is one thing. Ralph Hall, R- Rockwall, Joe Barton, R-Ennis, Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, and Mac Thornberry, R-Clarendon, with more than 85 years of combined service in Congress, already have Republican primary opponents.

Michael Burgess, a Republican from Flower Mound in office since 2003, is so far facing two Republicans and an independent.

And Blake Farenthold, a former conservative talk radio show host from Corpus Christi, who deposed longtime Democratic Congressman Solomon Ortiz by the slenderest of margins two years ago, will be tested by at least one Republican in 2012. One of them might be Debra Medina, who has not formally announced, but who scored with Tea Party voters when she challenged Gov. Rick Perry in 2010.

Of the 535 members of Congress, the American Conservative Union in its last annual study issued 75 scores of 100 for what it considers a perfect conservative voting record. Thirteen of those were Texas representatives, including Brady and Thornberry. Hall, Barton and Burgess got scores of 96.

But in her 20 years of conservative activism in East Texas, JoAnn Fleming, the chairman of the Tea Party’s advisory committee to the Legislature in the last session and the executive director of Grassroots America in Smith County, has seen a change in how voters are judging conservatism.

The public has been buffeted as much by uncontrolled government spending in the Republican administration of George W. Bush as they have by the current Democratic leadership, Fleming says.

JoAnn FlemingJoAnn Fleming
While she says it is too early for the Tea Party to come out for or against specific candidates, Fleming says Barton’s tireless efforts to aid the oil and gas industry and the work of Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Dallas, to groom candidates through the Republican Congressional Committee, are just two examples of politicians being beholden to a system rather than to voters.

“I think incumbents ought to realize that voters are looking at their performance. Do they use their office to pick winners and losers,” she says. “We can’t afford these people who like big government. You aren’t a Constitutional conservative just because you have an 'R' behind your name.”

The ground-level lift for 2012 came not from presidential overreach or congressional arrogance but from the hubris displayed by Republican state representatives who supported Joe Straus for speaker of the House at the start of the past legislative session, Linahan says.

Constituents were made to feel promises the politicians made to one another were more important than their pleas to elect a more conservative speaker, she says.

“People are starting to connect the dots from the local races on up,” Linahan says. “I think there is this perception of all of these rock hard conservatives, and I don’t think we have true conservatives in certain races.”

Linahan says it might be another month or more before Tea Party organizers identify who those candidates lacking in conservative credentials are and what they plan to do about it.

Identifying the candidates is one thing. Marshaling the broad support and the funding to do something about it is another, Chris Britton, a prominent consultant to Republicans in Texas, says.

Britton thinks the open seats in districts 14 and 25 which, unless the map is redrawn, will almost certainly go to Republicans and will probably say more about the voters in those districts than the current bent of conservatism in Texas.

Medina’s presence in a District 27 race, although not at all guaranteed, will change the Republican dialogue but based on the 2010 election returns is unlikely to shift the Democratic base that kept Ortiz in office for more than 30 years.

“No one doubts that the Tea Party has a core group of committed individuals - in fact most of these congressional districts will have an active Tea Party - but can they come together to engage constructively, mount a campaign and win an election. I don’t know that we’ll be seeing that.”

A look at the recent past shows how difficult it is for a Republican to upend an incumbent Republican in Texas. Long before his revival as a Tea Party godfather, three Republicans challenged Ron Paul in the 2010 primary. Paul got more than 80 percent of the vote without a single challenger getting as much as 10 percent.

After winning a primary runoff in 2002, Burgess’ primary numbers climbed to 75 percent, dropped to 60 percent and went back up to 67 percent in 2010. Brady took 79 percent of the primary vote that same year. Thornberry’s last primary was in 2000, Barton’s in 1998.

Hall drew four Republicans in the 2008 primary and finished with 73 percent of the vote. Two years later, with five challengers he moved on with 57 percent.

Each of these incumbents is hundreds of thousands of dollars in fundraising ahead of the challengers so far, margins that will likely swell as the March primary gets closer. From the totals kept by Open Secrets several of the opponents have so far reported raising nothing at all.

From these many races, Britton suggested the Tea Party focus its efforts with care. “You have to be wise about the battles you pick,” he says. “Because every time you fail it’s a blot on your effectiveness. You can potentially undercut everything you’re doing.”

Britton’s is precisely the agnostic consultant’s view of the political process Linahan says she and other activists are determined to wipe away.

“It’s this narrative of huge donors with deep pockets, consultants, polls, ads and special interests, the political establishment,” she says. “For it to change the people are going to have to take control of the narrative and fix it themselves. And the way to do that is for Republicans to hold Republicans accountable.”
 
***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, and tumblr.

Photo of the Capitol by flickr user wallyg, used via a Creative Commons license.

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Voter ID debated at the Texas state Capitol; measure looks sure to pass Senate
Tuesday, Jan 25, 2011, 08:35PM CST
By Steve Miller
driver's license

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has said it's an emergency, and his fellow Republicans in the Senate jumped at the chance this week to debate a voter ID bill after failing to push one through last session.

Democrats grilled state Sen. Troy Fraser, the Republican who filed voter ID legislation two weeks ago, for hours on Tuesday regarding the associated price tag of $2 million, the trouble some voters might have obtaining a free ID card offered under the bill, permissible forms of ID and the ability of the bill, if passed, to clear constitutional and other legal challenges. Fraser often deferred the question to others.


Sen. Royce West inquired as to the definition of an election official. Fraser referred him to the Secretary of State’s office.


Sen. Carlos Uresti asked what kind of provisions would be made to help people get a free ID card, which would be distributed by the Department of Public Safety. Fraser referred Uresti to the DPS.


And when Sen. Leticia Van de Putte asked what form of ID the DPS would require in order to provide the free ID, Fraser said he did not know.


Troy FraserFRASER

Sen. Rodney Ellis pointed out that the most common voter fraud takes place via the mail-in ballot process.


"If voter fraud is your purpose, why not a photo requirement for mail-in ballots?" Ellis asked. "Wouldn't you say there is more room for fraud with mail-in ballots?"


Fraser said his measure doesn't address that type of fraud.

"But would you concede that there is more potential for mail-in ballot fraud than with someone showing up?" Ellis insisted. Fraser didn't answer, saying simply that his bill was about voter ID.

While voter ID may stop some fraud -- Texas Watchdog, for example, found the names of dead voters being used to vote in Houston -- mail-in ballot fraud is the most prevalent form of deception in the voting process in Texas, which Texas Watchdog has investigated extensively.

Indeed, the state Attorney General's office has dedicated thousands of investigative hours and dollars to prosecution of the practice, primarily in South Texas. But lawmakers have been reluctant to address it.

Fraser did, however, adroitly outline the parameters and requirements of his bill:

  • Four kinds of ID would be accepted: a Texas driver’s license or personal ID issued by the Department of Public Safety, a military ID, a passport or a citizenship certificate with a photo.
  • Anyone 70 or older by Jan. 1, 2012, would be grandfathered in and not subject to the new law.
  • Voters who have no photo ID would be allowed to vote after signing an affidavit and would have six days after the election to provide a suitable photo ID to the elections administrator.
  • A free ID card from the DPS would be issued to voters who state the ID is specifically to satisfy the voter ID law.

Van de Putte pointed out the bill is “more restrictive” than the bill that ultimately failed in the last session two years ago -- that bill allowed for voters without a photo ID to show two forms of nonphoto identification. But acknowledging the expanded majority of Republicans favoring voter ID this session, Van de Putte said, “There is no doubt this bill will pass.”

Both Fraser and voter ID opponents have cited a 2005 report on election reform by the Carter Baker Commission, saying it buttresses their positions.


Opponents asked for any proof of voter impersonation, which Fraser could not cite. They explored Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, under which certain states, including Texas, must obtain approval from the U.S. Attorney General before changing voting procedures.

 

While key Senate Democrats oppose voter ID, the majority of Texans support it, according to polls. A March 2009 University of Texas poll showed that 69 percent of Texans supported a voter ID measure. Opposing voter ID were 18 percent, and 13 percent said they did not know.

 

A representative from Fraser’s office said Texas' voter ID bill is patterned after similar laws in Georgia and Indiana. Georgia is also a Section 5 state, and the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a challenge to Indiana’s voter ID measure in 2008.


“These are the only two states right now with real voter ID laws,” Jennie Bowser, an election analyst at the National Conference of State Legislatures, said in an interview with Texas Watchdog. Six other states request some form of photo identification from a voter, although in those cases a simple affidavit from the voter lacking that photo will suffice.


According to data from the NCSL, there are currently 32 bills in 13 states (check various election bills here) regarding voter ID, including Missouri,  Minnesota and South Carolina.


“And there is a tremendous variation regarding ID,” Bowser said. “In some states, a utility bill is considered ID, and some states have no provision for ID at all.”


Texas voters may present a utility bill to identify themselves at the polls. Citizenship papers, a birth certificate or a bank statement showing the voter's address are also accepted.


The proposed legislation will no doubt be amended as it moves through the Senate and into the House Committee on Elections. The members of House committees have not yet been finalized.


Contact Steve Miller at 832-303-9420 or stevemiller@texaswatchdog.org.


Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feed in your newsreader. We're also onMySpaceDiggFriendFeed, NewsVine and tumblr.


Photo of a Texas driver's license by flickr user ezola, used via a Creative Commons license.

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Nothing Really Happens with This Bed Bug Shutdown Notice and Implosion Threat Posted to a Westheimer Strip Center Mattress Store “The movie finally makes a reasonable amount of sense now” after 4 years of work on it, writes producer Joseph Graham on the...
Update:2 years 5 months
Swamplot
Swamplot Sponsor: Central Bank Swamplot’s sponsor today is Houston’s own Central Bank. Thanks for the continuing support! Central Bank has 4 (central) Houston...
Update:2 years 5 months
Swamplot
The Next Food Hall Coming to Downtown Houston Will Be a Storeful of Open Kitchens If you’re just coming up to speed on the whole food hall thing, remember this: It’s not a food court, it’s a food hall....
Update:2 years 5 months
Swamplot
Amazon Will Swallow Whole Foods Whole For those who expected Whole Foods Market to shop itself to a fellow grocery store chain and not a powerful company experimenting with...
Update:2 years 5 months
Swamplot
This Century’s Rise in Home Prices; Rare Local Air Monitoring Equipment Exhibited at Museum Houston-Area Home Prices Have Increased Nearly 30% Since 2000, Finds Harvard Study [Houston Chronicle] Stream, AMD To Develop 5-Story...
Update:2 years 5 months
Swamplot
Daily Demolition Report: Feagan, and Again, and Again Swamplot’s Daily Demolition Report lists buildings that received City of Houston demolition permits the previous weekday. Demolition is...
Update:2 years 5 months
Swamplot
Blessed are the Poor: Examining opposition to debtors-prison legislation Texas State Sen. Paul Bettencourt was quoted by the Associated Press (June 11) criticizing debtors-prison legislation (SB 1913) which...
Update:2 years 5 months
Grits for Breakfast
Houston Home Listing Photo of the Day: The Vault 14759 Oak Bend Dr. [HAR] … Read...
Update:2 years 5 months
Swamplot
Bones Found in Holdout Heights House Attic Tell No Tales Fox26 has now updated its story from March on the mysterious circumstances surrounding the fate of Mary Cerruti, the former owner of the...
Update:2 years 5 months
Swamplot
Fast Indian Comes to the Strip Center End of 19th St. Just opened this week in Re:Vive Development’s new add-on strip center at 721 W. 19th St., just west of Shepherd Dr.: the first...
Update:2 years 5 months
Swamplot
A Personal Big Day at L'Auberge in Lake Charles In previous posts, including in my Lifetime of Running Cold history of my personal gambling, Iit's been mentioned that I've been...
Update:2 years 5 months
Cory Crow
Debtors-prison policies decried, DPS cuts license center hours, and other stories Here are a few odds and ends that merit Grits readers' attention while mine is focused on preparing for a much-need break next week.SCOTUS...
Update:2 years 5 months
Grits for Breakfast
Junk-science based false convictions in Houston lampooned by comedian Someone has finally grokked and managed to convey in an accessible, understandable way the unmitigated travesty of justice surrounding drug...
Update:2 years 5 months
Grits for Breakfast
Just Liberty post-session roundup podcast Here's the latest Just Liberty podcast - this time reviewing criminal-justice reform legislation from the 85th Texas Legislature -...
Update:2 years 5 months
Grits for Breakfast
Governor signs omnibus innocence bill to track informants, record interrogations Governor Greg Abbott today signed HB 34, Texas' latest omnibus innocence legislation. Grits explained in this post why the eyewitness ID...
Update:2 years 5 months
Grits for Breakfast
Houston meeting of Texas Latino GOP PAC tomorrow evening From the InBox: The Texas Latino GOP PAC are the gatekeepers to the conservative Latino Community, for far too long GOP outreach to Latino...
Update:2 years 5 months
Big Jolly Politics
Sen. Joan Huffman to recap the 85th From the InBox: Join us THIS WEDNESDAY, June 14 (Flag Day!), for our meeting with State Sen. Joan Huffman, SD 17, who will be discussing...
Update:2 years 5 months
Big Jolly Politics
Gov. Abbott mistakes incarceration smell for "freedom" Governor Greg Abbott made a speech in Bell County recently declaring that, as one drove north out of Austin, one could notice a different...
Update:2 years 5 months
Grits for Breakfast
Unanswered questions about law-of-parties beyond death penalty In our podcast the other day, Texas Defender Service Executive Director Amanda Marzullo estimated that 10 percent of death-row defendants...
Update:2 years 5 months
Grits for Breakfast
Priorities The headline from the Victoria Advocate declaring that the Texas Legislature prioritized mental health treatment over incarceration is...
Update:2 years 5 months
Grits for Breakfast
Legislative Session The 85th Legislative Session was different in many ways. Two things changed the narrative this session. First, Empower Texans successfully...
Update:2 years 5 months
Big Jolly Politics
Court trends advise tempered enthusiasm for HB 34 eyewitness ID reforms Does this sound like a suggestive photo array to put before a witness?A witness described being robbed at gunpoint by a “[b]lack male,...
Update:2 years 5 months
Grits for Breakfast
MAY 22, 2917 / Theodore Dalrymple on secularization and transcendence THE SECULARIZATION of Europe is hardly any secret. Religion's long, melancholy, withdrawing roar, as Matthew Arnold put it, is a roar no...
Update:2 years 6 months
Unca Darrell
MAY 10 / James B. Comey . . . . . . needed firing. Everything he did during the 2016 election was wrong. He was wrong . . . . . . back in July to release information...
Update:2 years 6 months
Unca Darrell
Droppin' F bombs, Beto O'Rourke style It's not often that a politician decides to start cursing repeatedly during speeches and interviews. But that hasn't stopped...
Update:2 years 7 months
Rick Perry vs The World
APRIL 5, 2017 / Weeding out the audience at the Alley is . . . . . . a feature, not a bug. Houston's Alley Theatre is running "An Act of God," a loosely dramatized collection of irreverent one-liners...
Update:2 years 7 months
Unca Darrell
Statewide primary rumors It's that stage of the election cycle where politicians are trying to figure out if they should run for something else or stay put. ...
Update:2 years 8 months
Rick Perry vs The World
Is Ted Cruz vulnerable? Is Ted Cruz vulnerable? Not really. Sure, he's not liked, Texans think Ted puts Ted first, his approval rating is upside down, etc...
Update:2 years 8 months
Rick Perry vs The World
MARCH 16, 2017 / Jim Webb on what it means to be a redneck, and . . . . . . why redneck culture matters. In 2004 Jim Webb wrote Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America. Though the 2016 presidential...
Update:2 years 8 months
Unca Darrell
MARCH 3, 2017 -- Goodbye, and thanks, to Thomas Sowell THOMAS SOWELL, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and one of America's most important public intellectuals, retired from...
Update:2 years 9 months
Unca Darrell
March 2, 2017 / The poem our teachers got wrong TWO ROADS diverged in a wood, and I -- I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference. Generations of commencement...
Update:2 years 9 months
Unca Darrell
FEBRUARY 27 / Eric Hoffer on . . . . . . baby boomers and alienated intellectuals. "SCRATCH AN INTELLECTUAL, and you find a would-be aristocrat who loathes the sight, the...
Update:2 years 9 months
Unca Darrell
2017 Project: January “Progress” There are two different ways to interpret my 2017 project: that it's a way more complicated New Years Resolution, or that it is essentially...
Update:2 years 10 months
Greg's Opinion
Ted Cruz's first senate term in a nutshell The National Review's Tim Alberta switched to Politico, and one of his opening pieces put Ted Cruz's first term in a nutshell It...
Update:2 years 10 months
Rick Perry vs The World
Andrea Parquet-Taylor named KTVT CBS 11 news director Former KHOU 11 assistant news director Andrea Parquet-Taylor named Vice President, News Director for KTVT CBS 11 Andrea...
Update:2 years 10 months
Mike McGuff
VIDEO: KPRC 2 10pm newscast (1-24-99) ...
Update:2 years 10 months
Mike McGuff
Democrats actually thought Wendy Davis was a serious candidate? Hat tip to Willisms: VIDEO- Wendy Davis being Wendy Davis: https://t.co/SHq3ACGVDJ #txlege— Will Franklin (@WILLisms) January 24,...
Update:2 years 10 months
Rick Perry vs The World
Luke Bryan to sing National Anthem as part of Super Bowl LI on FOX ​ Country music superstar LUKE BRYAN will sing the National Anthem as part of Super Bowl LI pregame festivities at NRG Stadium in Houston...
Update:2 years 10 months
Mike McGuff
Tweets
Karen Townsend | 7 years 6 months
"Patrick F. Kennedy is a career foreign service officer" - http://t.co/GOrCe0IS
Peter Corbett ✈ | 7 years 6 months
I'm at McCarran International Airport (LAS) w/ @almacy http://t.co/KvmId07i
KERA Public Media | 7 years 6 months
TONIGHT at 7pm on KERA TV: Presidential Debate: Learn more at PBS NewsHour. http://t.co/Z9kYdun8
PBS MediaShift | 7 years 6 months
Tech Snafus Make Bill O'Reilly/Jon Stewart 'Rumble' More of a Stumble http://t.co/4OfeBlrG (@kegill | @pbsmediashift) #rumble2012
Will Sullivan | 7 years 6 months
Great addition, been burned too much by bad subs. "Google Play Announces Free Trials For In-App Subscription Services" http://t.co/TOLgRVak
TxDOT | 7 years 6 months
I-35W/North Tarrant Express #constantcontact http://t.co/QDzrQumu
keyetv | 7 years 6 months
Serial shotgun robbers suspects arrested. http://t.co/ka8T4U9B
Karen Townsend | 7 years 6 months
Aren't State Dept career people suppose to be non-partisan? Not the political appointees, the career people. #Libya
San Antonio Current | 7 years 6 months
Go ahead, chalk it up http://t.co/YMWpC5wM #satx #chalkitup
Caller.com | 7 years 6 months
Scanner: Bathroom on fire in 600 block of Virginia, CC fire dept. on the way
Ballotpedia | 7 years 6 months
Does your state offer early voting? Do you qualify? Find out! #election2012 http://t.co/eodxBYVD
Dallas Morning News | 7 years 6 months
Why a Dallas-area cycling coach believed Lance Armstrong was drug-free (video) http://t.co/gURdYkj1
Caller.com | 7 years 6 months
Dozens of illegal waste dumpers sentenced in Jim Wells Co.; others on the run: http://t.co/NgerCdsQ
Karen Townsend | 7 years 6 months
Consistently impressed w/raullabrador when I listen to him in Congressional hearings. #Libya
Cory Crow | 7 years 6 months
Diigo: United raises fares by up to $10 per round trip - Business - http://t.co/kWY8gwPV http://t.co/bw25JP5R
News 4 WOAI | 7 years 6 months
If you see news in or around San Antonio 'SEND IT' to @NEWS4WOAI here: http://t.co/uMqbMXQv OR email us at: NEWSDESK@WOAITV.COM
swamplot | 7 years 6 months
Mining Houston Garbage for Recycling and Compost Gold http://t.co/HMMBArMX
swamplot | 7 years 6 months
Daily Demolition Report: Tulane Highway http://t.co/JXmkSx11
KFDA NewsChannel10 | 7 years 6 months
Obama and Romney: Where they stand on the issues http://t.co/y3VrPfkM
Williamson County | 7 years 6 months
Mental Health Awareness Week FREE Webinar:"Understanding Depression-How to Help You or a Loved One" Thurs,Oct 11@1pm-https://t.co/YUWi19WY
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