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Voter ID: Yadda Yadda Yadda

Mostly a replay of last session

By Lee Nichols, 5:28PM, Tue. Jan. 25, 2011

Disability rights advocate Chase Bearden testifies against the Voter ID bill.
Disability rights advocate Chase Bearden testifies against the Voter ID bill.
photo by Lee Nichols

The only real suspense down here at the Texas Senate is the question of when the Voter ID bill will finally pass. The Senate convened as a "committee of the whole" at 8am, and SB14 author Troy Fraser was then peppered with questions (mostly from Democrats) until about 4pm. The first witness finally began testifying after that.

See my earlier post for a recap of the Democrats' questioning of Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay.

As for the invited witnesses testifying now, it's largely a recap of what was heard two years ago. The legal counsel to the Indiana secretary of state testified that when that state implemented requirements for a photo ID to vote, the predicted widespread disenfranchisement did not occur.

A representative of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund said that SB14 would be "the most restrictive voter ID law in the nation," even more than Indiana's.

That's one key difference from last session's bill: This bill is even more restrictive than the one that shut down the Legislature two years ago. That one contained the option of offering two forms of non-photo ID instead of photo ID. This one strictly demands a photo, which Democrats say will do little to deter fraud but will disproportionately harm minorities, women, and the elderly, demographics less likely to have such ID. (Fraser's current bill waives the photo requirement for voters over 70.)

Gary Bledsoe from the NAACP recounted the history of racial discrimination in Texas, and Austin Community College professor Andres Tijerina recalled the outright violence used against Hispanics in the past. Now a wheelchair-bound Chase Bearden is discussing the hardships of the disabled in getting such IDs.

Ultimately, regardless of the testimony's merit, this is all just for show, for each side to compile a record for possible legal action later. Since Republicans voted to waive the two-thirds rule – a Senate tradition requiring 21 of the 31 senators to agree before a bill gets to the floor – specifically for Voter ID bills, it's a foregone conclusion that the 19-12 GOP majority will pass the bill. It's just a matter of whether that happens today or tomorrow.

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