Ellis: Voter ID Bills Are Dead

Houston lawmaker says he can kill any bills that would require a photo ID to vote.

In a strongly worded Wednesday morning press conference (video here), Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, told his colleagues to forget about passing a so-called "voter ID" bill, because the 11 Democrats in the Senate have all pledged to prevent such a bill from ever coming to the Senate floor. Because of the Senate's "two-thirds rule" – which says that at least two-thirds of senators must approve before a bill can come up for debate – those 11 are enough kill a bill.

"Like last session, I have the votes to defeat plans to enact voter-intimidation laws," said Ellis.

Ellis – joined by Reps. Lon Burnam of Fort Worth and Rafael Anchiá of Dallas (both Democratic members of the House Elections Committee); Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston; Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio; and other legislators and advocates – said such bills requiring a photo ID to vote would be better called "voter roadblock" bills that will only discourage minorities, the poor, disabled, and elderly from voting and will do little to reduce voter fraud. In fact, he said there is no evidence that such a requirement is even necessary.

House bills 218, 626, and 101 , and 979 all would require a photo ID for voting (although all but HB 626 allow voting with two forms of non-photo ID), and all have been left pending in the Elections Committee.

"We've heard again and again the horror stories of dead voters casting the deciding vote; we've heard the term voter fraud thrown around," Ellis said. "Supporters of these efforts cannot provide one single instance in which people in Texas have voted using false identification. Not one. Last session there were those on the House side giving testimony about these horror stories, yet not one documented case of fraud. This is a solution searching desperately for a problem. Can supporters of this bill give us evidence, any evidence, any proof of an individual voting using false ID? … No they can't. They only give us rhetoric. So like Joe McCarthy saying he had proof there were 57 card-carrying Communists in the State Department, you can make a heated charge but not back it up with one single fact."

But Ellis and his allies did marshal some facts of their own. Van de Putte said that academic studies have shown that photo-ID requirements will negatively impact 6 to 10% of the voting population without reducing fraud and charged that the nationwide voter-ID movement is merely a partisan attempt to suppress Democratic voters. Ellis said career U.S. Justice Department staffers also back Van de Putte's stats, and Burnam charged that the requirement would be the "21st century poll tax." Speakers with groups such as the League of Women Voters and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund made similar comments.

"We've seen this movie before, and we know how it ends," said Ellis. "It's time to drop this dangerous and divisive plan and concentrate on reforms that will actually improve our electoral system."

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Legislature, Rodney Ellis, Leticia Van de Putte, voter ID

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