When most Texans were sleeping

This is a news item I missed, and it’s making steam come out of my ears. An estimated 600,000 Texas voters – the population of a big city! – though registered to vote, won’t be able to because they cannot meet photo-identification requirements set out in the state’s new voter-ID law, SB14 . It’s the strictest voter ID law in the country and you know why those fuckers in Texas passed it.

It was justified by Governor Rick Perry and the Republican chiefs in the state legislature as a means of combatting electoral fraud in a state where in the past 10 years some 20m votes have been cast, yet only two cases of voter impersonation have been prosecuted to conviction.

Earlier this month a federal district judge, Nelva Gonzales Ramos, struck down the law, slamming it as a cynical ploy on the part of Republicans to fend off the growing strength of the minority electorate in Texas by “suppressing the overwhelmingly Democratic votes of African Americans and Latinos”. She linked SB14 to a long history of racial discrimination in state elections spanning back generations, and declared the new law to be an unconstitutional poll tax.

There used to be a law against that – the Voting Rights Act – but I guess it doesn’t apply in Texas.

But last week, in the early hours of 18 October, when most Texans were sleeping, the US supreme court snuck out a one-line judgment that allowed the voter ID restrictions to be applied this election cycle. Without any explanation, a majority of the justices effectively threw Eric Kennie and many thousands of others like him – particularly black, Hispanic and low-income Texans – into a state of democratic limbo.

“This is the first time the courts have allowed a law that actually keeps people from voting to go into effect, even though a judge found it was passed for the purpose of making it harder for minorities to vote,” said Wendy Weiser, head of the democracy programme at the Brennan Centre for Justice.

Steam. Ears.

The Guardian has heartbreaking stories to illustrate how this affects people. I’m out of time, so read the stories.


  1. Al Dente says

    Voter ID, a solution in search of a problem. Except when it’s used to keep the lumpen proletariat from voting for the wrong candidates.

  2. Omar Puhleez says

    Have they thought of privatising the election, getting some company to run it, and charging admission to the polling booths?
    That would probably help get the proper people elected. Call it der-mock-racy.

  3. Katie Anderson says

    So many comment threads start as “it’s just about voter fraud.” When you get across the concept of how it affects thousands of poor people it changes to “who cares, they’re just voting for handouts.” Because republicans seem to think that it’s okay to deny someone the vote if they’re voting for the “wrong” reason.

  4. Athywren says

    Photo ID rules:
    No sunglasses
    No masks or other facial coverings
    No smiling
    No skin darker than this swatch ->

    @Katie Anderson, 3

    Because republicans seem to think that it’s okay to deny someone the vote if they’re voting for the “wrong” reason.

    Well yeah? It would make a mockery of the very concept of democracy if people were allowed to vote according to their political views and needs! Next you’ll be suggesting that refusing to have elections at all, declaring that you now have the job for life, and that your children will take over when you die is somehow a bad thing! Bloody SJWs, amirite?

  5. says

    The number is a lot closer to 6 than 600,000. How do I know this…from the same data used by the folks claiming the higher number. During the hearings on the bill that established this, they were only able to produce a handful, I believe 4, to testify that they would be disenfranchised. If the number were 600,000, they would have had 10,000 of them marching around the statehouse, but they couldn’t find any.

    Of course, actually finding these people, instead of claiming they exist as a political prop would cause another problem. You see, the voter IDs in Texas are FREE. IF you can find them, they can get the IDs (once again for FREE).

    There have been 2 elections prior to this one since the ID requirement went into effect, but there was no groundswell of folks claiming they couldn’t vote, so that 600,000 simply doesn’t exist.

  6. Crimson Clupeidae says

    Old white guy, Jim Kanuth, says it’s easy for minorities to vote.

    On the other hand, voter fraud wasn’t an issue, either, so why go through all the trouble to enact voter photo ID? Is anyone really stupid enough to think they would go through that much trouble if it didn’t at least work to some degree?

  7. freemage says

    Jim Kanuth:

    Oh, aren’t you precious. Let’s run through the example from the article linked in this very blog post, shall we, Diddums?

    To get an EIC, Kennie needs to be able to show the Texas department of public safety (DPS) other forms of documentation that satisfy them as to his identity. He presented them with his old personal ID card – issued by the DPS itself and with his photo on it – but because it is more than 60 days expired (it ran out in 2000) they didn’t accept it. Next he showed them an electricity bill, and after that a cable TV bill, but on each occasion they said it didn’t cut muster and turned him away.

    Each trip to the DPS office involved taking three buses, a journey that can stretch to a couple of hours. Then he had to stand in line, waiting for up to a further three hours to be seen, before finally making another two-hour schlep home.

    In one of his trips to the DPS last year they told him he needed to get hold of a copy of his birth certificate as the only remaining way he could meet the requirements and get his EIC. That meant going on yet another three-bus trek to the official records office in a different part of town.

    The cost of acquiring a birth certificate in Texas is $23, which may not sound much but it is to Kennie. He is poor, like many of the up to 600,000 Texans caught in the current voter ID trap.

    So, three bus trips ($3.00 for a day-long pass). Three different trips = $9. Another trip to the records office for his birth certificate = $3. Then once more back to the DMV = $3 more. Transit costs: $15. Cost for the Birth Certificate: $23. Total cost for this “free” ID: $38. Now, I’m sure to some middle class white dude on the internet, that sounds like a modest sum. But this is all to exercise a basic, got-it-when-you’re-born civil right, so ANY charge is an obscenity. So please feel free to fuck off with all the fucks, Jim.

  8. says

    Old white guy? Yep, I was once a dirt poor young white guy, but I was fortunate enough to age. Neither I nor Crimson knows whether there’s few cases of voter fraud or millions. The data simply has never been collected to find out. One wonders why generating that data by requiring an ID generates such consternation.

    $38 is indeed a mountainous sum for some folks…it would have been for me at one time. However freemage, you pretty much proved my point by using this particular example. The law has been in effect now for 13 1/2 months and this example shows up in nearly every article opposing it. We can discuss whether newspapers in TX are conservative or liberal in bent, but probably agree that even the Austin American Statesman doesn’t go as far as to be Progressive. None of the reporters on their political beat has found another example they felt worth publishing….is it a conspiracy of silence?

    More to the point, none of the political groups who have been stuffing my mailbox for the past few months has found another example like this and some of them have a very strong vested interest in finding those folks. But when they find them (they’re not non-existent, just few in number not 600,000), they have the same problem that caused the folks who published the 600,000 number to not verify their statistical model. At that point, you have a moral obligation to help these folks get their IDs and then they’re no longer a usable example. If they had spent their resources on getting people IDs instead of lawsuits, the problem would have vanished already.

  9. says

    Jim Kanuth, what’s your point? That obstacles to voting are not a big deal?

    Does it not occur to you that they are a big deal? That they are the very thing the Voting Rights Act was enacted to do away with, for very good reasons?

  10. says

    More important than why is when. If “voter fraud” and telling people to have ID were so important, they would be writing laws and organizing this at least a year before elections. As happened in 2012, 2010, 208 and 2006, the republicans are doing this at the last minute.

    They’re passing laws weeks and days before elections so that no one has any chance to challenge it. Those most affected by such anti-democratic laws the least likely to have the resources to fight it. By the time any legal challenges can be heard, the election will be over and those whose rights were violated won’t be allowed to vote retroactively. Which is, of course, the goal of such laws.

    “You have the right to vote, just not during elections!”

  11. Decker says

    If you don’t demand any ID, then how do you avoid fraud? And if people who haven’t the right to vote are voting because controls are lax, then doesn’t that cheapen and demean the whole democratic process?

    Is the battle Black American citizens waged all those years ago to obtain the right to vote to be spat on?

    This is all about giving illegal Latinos the right to vote in order to skew the results. I’m wondering just how Black people are attending to all this since many Blacks now realize they’re in direct competition with Latino illegals for a dwindling number of lousy cheap labour jobs.

    I voted last April in Québec’s provincial elections here in Canada. I had ( everybody does) to prove via a photo ID ( driver’s license, healthcare card or passport etc) that I was who I claimed I was and that I was living at the address I said I was living at. Those who can’t prove who they are and where they live are turned away. If we didn’t do that then people could vote multiple times, making a laughing stock of the whole process.

    When young people here by booze and they look to be under 18, then they have to prove to the clerk via a photo ID that they actually are 18.

    And you need to prove you’re 16 if you want to drive a car.

    And if you’re stopped by the cops…you have to cough up a valid ID or else…

    We’re asked for ID when it comes to all sorts of things.

    I think the problem resides in the fact that a good number of the “disenfranchised” Latino Democrat demographic referred to in this article are neither landed immigrants NOR citizens and therefore CANNOT vote.

  12. says

    At least they haven’t started up vigilante committees (let’s call them Klans) or hired lawyers (like former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court William Rehnquist) to physically haul people out of the polls yet.

    But Decker, if you are so convinced that Texas requires this law to prevent undocumented immigrants from voting illegally you should be quite ready to provide us evidence of such a scheme in the past or that one is currently planned. I’ve actually spent some time studying nineteenth century vote fraud (in Kansas Territory, if it matters) and I can do that for my cases, and it did not take access to a research library or archives to do it. My data includes eyewitness testimony, published resolutions of public meetings, testimony to a Congressional committee a year afterwards, and manifestos of organizations founded for the purpose. They all point to a coherent, organized, well-funded campaign (including a United States Senator and a future governor of Missouri, no less!) to move men into Kansas to control its elections through fraudulent votes.

    Surely you could give us a whole wealth of information on the subject of a much more recent conspiracy conducted in a time when far more is written down (though the nineteenth century was pretty good about that too) and has not gone up in smoke or been lost in someone’s closet, even if we share the same handicaps in access.

    Or would it be that your comment is an expression of partisanship rather than intended, as the saying goes, as a factual statement?

  13. Lady Mondegreen (aka Stacy) says

    Decker, no. Just no.

    When you register to vote, you supply your social security number. The form is processed by a local elections agency, which maintains the voter lists. The lists are on the public record–anyone can see them. With or without ID, voters can only vote once.

    There is no evidence of any attempt to perpetrate voter fraud by allowing illegal immigrants to vote, or having poor brown people vote multiple times. Such an attempt would be difficult to carry out, and easily caught.

    There is evidence though that voter fraud has been attempted from the other direction–people being prevented from voting, and people (mostly poor people) being removed from voter lists for shady reasons.

  14. says

    Ophelia Benson, I started out with one point and drifted, sorry about that. I’ll make that point again and probably drift a little more.

    My initial point was the 600,000 number that made steam come out of your ears was from an unverified statistical model and therefore, BS. In the nearly 14 months since the law was passed, I have one additional fact that the authors of that number didn’t,…..There’s been no torrent of disenfranchised voters complaining of difficulties getting an ID. In fact, it’s been so few that both the news media and the political operatives keep trotting out the same few examples since they can’t find new ones. (Note the words “last year” in the Guardian article you saw.) While this is not proof, it strongly suggests that those hundreds of thousands of voters prevented from voting due to being unable to obtain an ID just don’t exist. This despite there having been 2 statewide and one primary election along with numerous local and school board elections over that time period.

    It sounds like a cliche, but the disenfranchisement of any eligible voter is a big deal — you’re right. The other point I wandered off into was that with a manageable number we can do something about it. Locate those folks and help them get an ID. But except for a few local faith based organizations, there doesn’t seem to be anyone doing that. The political organizations that would normally spearhead such a drive instead squandered their resources on lawsuits. The lawsuit is far from a slam dunk since it’s not clear that the requirements for obtaining a voter ID differ significantly from the requirements for obtaining a voter registration card. In the case from the Guardian, the Gentleman had let his ID expire but had to have one when he first registered to vote.

    At the risk of wandering even further (feel free to delete this paragraph if you think it detracts from the discussion), the cases where suspected vote fraud swung elections (almost anything in Cook County, IL or Williamson County, TX or at least occasionally South Florida), it has been the entrenched power structure keeping itself in, not the weaker (politically) folks overwhelming the gates. A voter ID requirement also binds the powerful.

  15. says

    Jim Kanuth, it wasn’t the 600,000 specifically that made steam come out of my ears – it was the invidious motivation behind it (coupled with the long and filthy history of this crap).

    Yes, the disenfranchisement of any eligible voter is a big deal, but that’s not what I was saying (so I’m not “right” in that sense). What I was saying was that the disenfranchisement of a whole historically exploited and abused group is a big deal.

  16. quixote says

    “the courts have allowed a law that actually keeps people from voting to go into effect, even though because a judge found it was passed for the purpose of making it harder for minorities to vote”

    There. Fixed it for Wendy Weiser.

  17. Brony says

    @Jim Kanuth
    Here is a link to the decision. Please explain why you do not trust the statistics that came up with the 600,000 number. The relevant portion starts on page 50.

    To be honest the burden of proof was always on the Republicans* to demonstrate that there was a problem that required them to hypocritically throw government money to fix. There is no voter fraud problem. There are people looking for it. They are not finding anything worth the problem. Single or double digit fraud that has literally been unable to threaten a single race. This should have never been allowed and anyone pushing for these laws has an obligation to explain why we should be spending money on problems that don’t exist if they are going to be taken seriously.

    *Note that this is condemnable for any party that does it, but right now it’s the Rs.

    Similar comments to you, see the second link above. You don’t need to prevent fraud if there is no fraud worth the burden of the law. A burden that disproportionally effects different people in de facto government bigotry.

    Is the battle Black American citizens waged all those years ago to obtain the right to vote to be spat on?
    This is all about giving illegal Latinos the right to vote in order to skew the results. I’m wondering just how Black people are attending to all this since many Blacks now realize they’re in direct competition with Latino illegals for a dwindling number of lousy cheap labour jobs.

    That is one of the most offensive pairs of sentences that I have seen in a while. They way you try to wield a race being disproportionally harmed by these laws as a rhetorical weapon by invoking them is disgusting.
    As for the rest. Prove it. The only one here that seems to fear political competition is you. You would not need to use other people as tools if you had evidence of a corrupted voting process. All the analogies in the world can’t hide the fact that there is no problem. You are making it up.

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