|OPINION: Legislature needs to try again|
JUNE 15, 2012
HERBER TAYLOR, THE GALVESTON DAILY NEWS
Even if Texas’ election code passes legal muster, it includes some dubious public policy. The Texas Legislature ought to revise it.
Project Vote filed a complaint in federal court in Galveston seeking an injunction to prevent the state from enforcing some parts of the code.
Project Vote and some volunteers in Galveston County contend the code’s provisions make it virtually impossible to conduct large-scale voter registration drives in Texas.
One of the most suspicious provisions in the code prohibits organizations such as Project Vote from firing workers who aren’t productive at registering people to vote. Texas is known as a state where people can be fired for good reasons, bad reasons or no reasons at all. You have to wonder why the legislature suddenly decided to get involved in workplace issues — but only with organizations trying to register voters.
Another problem is the prohibition against keeping any kind of photocopy of voter registration cards. Organizations such as Project Vote use the records to hold government agencies accountable for errors in rolls.
Suppose that an organization submitted 100,000 new voter registration cards. Suppose that some were found to be defective, and those people were excluded from the rolls. What if those excluded fit a demographic pattern — a pattern of race, geographic area or income level? Having copies of what was submitted to the government authorities in charge of maintaining the rolls would allow for an independent check against such practices. The provision in the election code makes that kind of accountability impossible.
The argument that keeping those kinds of records subjects people to the risk of identity theft isn’t compelling. Those records include names and addresses — but we live in an age when automatic teller and credit cards are used everywhere. Those records contain far more information than voter registration cards.
There are other problems with these provisions — all passed on the assumption they were needed to prevent voting fraud.
Perhaps the most striking feature of the hearing in Galveston this week was the lack of evidence of widespread voting fraud. The court heard about fears of voting fraud. It did not hear about voting fraud.
Texas is a state that is growing rapidly. In particular, its minority population is growing rapidly.
Why aren’t the numbers of registered voters growing rapidly?
If legislators really want an answer, they won’t have to look hard. It’s in the transcripts of the court hearing in Galveston this week. READ MORE
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