During the last session of the Legislature, the phoniest piece of legislation passed was the Voter ID Bill. Passed off as an effort to stop voter fraud, this legislation is being recognized as simply a partisan effort on the part of Republican right-wingers to reduce the number of people voting. The legislation smelled so bad the U.S. Department of Justice, under the Voting Rights Act, is holding up its implementation.
Even though Gov. Rick Perry listed it as an “emergency” measure, no emergency existed. Viewed in the cool light of day, the bill requiring everyone to have specific types of identification in order to vote really cures nothing. Almost no cases of voter fraud based on fake IDs have been documented in Texas. An in-depth analyses of this bill demonstrates it is very likely to impact minority and elderly voters, most of whom generally vote Democratic. Not only did our governor declare an emergency, but the Texas Senate, now controlled by Republicans, also overrode the traditional requirement that two-thirds of the Senate vote in order to take up a piece of legislation. Apparently, this shows how important curtailing voting by Texas citizens is to Republicans.
As further evidence that no emergency existed, a two-year study by the attorney general revealed less than half a dozen instances of voter fraud, only three of which were prosecuted. The three cases identified related to fraud connected with absentee voting. It is significant to note the Voter ID Bill passed by Republicans does not address topside or bottom absentee voting. Perhaps the emergency was the fact voter ID had been included in the Republican Party platform and Gov. Perry thought it would be helpful for his run for president.
A good example of what this legislation is costing Texas citizens is my 97-year-old mother. Her driver’s license, which she only recently stopped using, will expire next month. It would break her heart not to be able to vote in coming elections in that she has voted in every election of her lengthy life since she has been eligible. She has no means of identification that would pass muster with the Republican requirement of a voter ID. I, therefore, was required to set about getting her a state identification card. I took her from the assisted living facility where she is living, drove to the driver’s license bureau and after waiting in line for a while, she was able to obtain her picture, be fingerprinted and ultimately receive a Texas identification card. Incidentally, it required a certain fee. I had thought Texas had done away with the requirement that you buy some sort of document in order to be able to vote long ago. It seems that in a sense, Republicans have brought back the poll tax for at least some segments of our population.
To make this legislation even worse, it was not “hatched up” by members of our legislature to begin with. It emanated from an outfit called ALEC. That stands for the American Legislative Exchange Council. This is a right-wing group that hatches up legislation to favor right-wing conservatives throughout the 50 states. It was initiated, sponsored and birthed by the Koch brothers, who hate unions, liberals, Democrats and anybody who does not agree with their view or who stands in the way of their greedy ambitions. These brothers believe in the Golden Rule: “Them that has the gold should rule.” They have proved this time and again.
If the average Texan knew the truth about this legislation, its goal and its source, I am certain would be not only against it, but secretly ashamed of those who pushed it through.
Carl Parker has practiced law in Port Arthur since 1958. He is a 1958 graduate of the University of Texas School of Law. Elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1962 and the Senate in 1976, Parker continued to practice law while writing and sponsoring hundreds of bills that became laws relating to every aspect of life in Texas, including many regarding consumer safety.