Saturday, May 23, 2009

Voter ID fight puts criminal justice reform bills at risk

In some ways, the comeuppance seems fitting - the Texas Senate early in the session used a parliamentary loophole to get around the so-called 2/3 rule to pass Voter ID legislation, and now House Democrats have created a de facto 2/3 rule to block it. An example of smart political chess, if I ever saw one.

In the meantime, though, several important innocence-related bills and other critical reform legislation is at risk of being sacrificed on the Voter ID altar, as House Democrats "chubb" away on every penny ante bill as a delaying tactic to pressure their colleagues to back off Voter ID. The following bills would have most likely already been voted on by now if not for the delay tactics:
  • Eyewitness Identification: SB 117 by Ellis would require police departments to create written policies governing eyewitness identification procedures to prevent false identifications of the type that caused 80% of convictions among Texas' DNA exonerees. The Court of Criminal Appeals' Criminal Justice Integrity Unit said this should be the Legislature's highest priority for preventing false convictions.
  • Recording Interrogations: SB 116 by Ellis would encourage (but not require, unfortunately) departments to record custodial interrogations.
  • Habeas Writs and Junk Science: A compromise reached with prosecutors on SB 1976 by Whitmire would let appellants overcome the "subseqent writ" hurdle when they bring forward new claims involving new or discredited science that undermines their conviction.
  • Post-conviction DNA Testing: SB 1864 by Ellis limiting judges' discretion to deny post-conviction DNA testing and requiring samples be run against the CODIS database to identify possible suspects.
All of these bills come after Voter ID on the calendar, so if House Democrats successfully kill that bill through delay, they'll have killed all this good innocence legislation, too. That must not happen.

The House thankfully already passed the exoneree compensation bill and legislation to require corroboration of jailhouse snitches, but these remaining bills represent the heart of innocence-related policy reforms proposed during the 81st session. If they were to die without a vote at this point, it would be a major blow and a tremendous missed opportunity.

Two other good bills I've been tracking on Grits are in the same boat - sitting on the calendar for days waiting for the chubbing to end:
  • Asset Forfeiture Reform: SB 1529 by Whitmire would improve state oversight of seized assets and prevent solicitation of "waivers" for seized assets until a civil suit was filed in district court, aiming to address situations like in Tenaha where the practice allegedly amounted to officially backed highway robbery. This bill actually comes before Voter ID on the Major State calendar, but not by much and could still fall victim to the ticking clock.
  • Local-option Needle Exchange: SB 188 by Deuell would authorize creation of local-option needle exchange programs to prevent the spread of disease and promote drug treatment among addicts in Texas' large cities and counties. Thirty six states have formally authorized needle exhange operations, and Texas is the only state in the union where they cannot legally operate in some form or fashion.
I'd be quite disappointed if all this positive legislation falls victim to what amounts to a partisan feud.

Voter ID was always going to be dicier in the House than the Senate because of the more or less even partisan split. With the Speaker not voting and Rep. Edmund Kuempel hospitalized recovering from a heart attack, the House is essentially divided 74-74 between Democrats and Republicans.

While in truth, IMO there's probably room for compromise on both sides on Voter ID, in the present environment I don't see that happening. More likely, one side either must give in or else one side's tactical maneuvering will prevail. Personally, I don't have a dog in that fight; I'm a lot more worried about the collateral damage it's causing.

38 comments:

TxBluesMan said...

Grits,

The easy solution is to convince them to accept the Voter ID bill...

Otherwise, the other bills have probably got a fork stuck in 'em.

Anonymous said...

Why is it so wrong to show identification prior to voting? This would prevent illegal immigrants, identity thieves and criminals (that are not authorized by law to vote) from voting in Texas elections.

The only reason I could think of for people opposing this legislation is that they actually desire foreign citizens to vote in U.S. elections.

In that respect, a Mexican citizen (for example, it could just as easily be a Canadian) could vote both in their homeland and in ours affecting political events in both countries....

That would be okay just as long as I, a U.S. citizen could vote in Mexican (or Canadian) elections!

Don said...

Anon. The reason is that many people don't have id's and are old, infirm, etc. and it would be too much trouble, so they just won't vote. The other thing is, that nobody can come up with an instance where a fraudulent vote was cast, so it becomes a solution looking for a problem. Both political parties know that the people it affects are more likely to be D's. Thus the fight.

Anonymous said...

Don, almost every county in Texas, and certainly Harris County, can demonstrate instances of dead people, aliens, and felons being registered to vote. No, we can't prove that one actually voted, but then we cannot demonstrate an instance where an innocent person has been executed in Texas either. But since we keep finding innocent people on death row, its a safe assumption that one has been. Since we keep finding unqualified people on voting lists, its safe to also assume that one has voted. Besides, just exactly how many activities require government id? You can't fly, drive, go into a federal building, visit your jailbird relatives, buy booze, get welfare or foodstamps, get utility service, get cellphone service, cross international borders, get social security, get medicare or medicaid or any other form of public assistance, get medical treatment, or numerous other things without showing a government issued id. One of the big arguments is that it inconveniences the elderly. Try signing up for social security or medicare without id and the proper paperwork. Yet somehow, they manage to do it. Showing id to vote is a lot less hassle than showing id and filling out forms to get government assistance (ie, other peoples' money), so yeah, they damn well need to do it.

Don said...

Anonymous 7:19--Yes, there are two sides to the debate, which is why it is a debate. I was pointing out one side, because somebody asked. There is a vast difference between an innocent person being executed and somebody voting illegally. I agree with you. We have almost certainly killed an innocent person and somebody has almost certainly voted illegally. The fact that we can't point to the example indicates that neither is widespread. It is not acceptable to kill an innocent person, but it might be more tenable to have a few illegal voters if the alternative is disenfranchising many voters. I'm not necessarily for or against the bill, just pointing out that both sides have valid points. I'm with Scott. The thing is not important enough to kill good legislation that we need, such as the innocence related bills. In point of fact, I didn't show anything to sign up for social security. i did it all online. Shut-ins, by definition, don't fly, travel internationally, etc. etc. Some don't do any of the things you mentioned, but they still should be allowed to vote. Again, not arguing for or against, I just wish people wouldn't get so polarized on every issue. Yes, I'm one of of those squishy moderates who likes to look at both sides. Kill me.

Anonymous said...

If shut-ins don't travel, it would be difficult for them to vote...

Anonymous said...

Yes no doubt you were able to answer all the questions correctly and had a bank account that the social security funds could be electronically transferred to. And when you signed up for that bank account you showed id and an accurate, lawfully issued social security card that matched the info in their database, so you could do it online. Bottom line, you showed government issued id all along the way so you could get to that point. I don't know why we would tolerate even one single illegal voter. A person is either in this country legally or he is not. If you are, its incredibly easy to prove. You either produce a birth certificate or the proper documents and end of discussion. Elderly shut ins have those documents, just like the rest of us do, or they can easily obtain certified copies, at least they can if they are here legally. Of course if you aren't here legally, its damn difficult, but then that's the point, isn't? When you have groups like ACORN, which is under investigation and has had several people indicted in about 10 states, signing up illegals and telling them they don't have to be citizens to vote, and then getting paid off with several billion dollars of "stimulus" money, don't think we don't have a problem. Two years ago when the illegals were having parades and waving Mexican flags right here in Houston, I stood in the crowd and listened and watched as ACORN members passed out voter registration cards and told illegals to sign up and vote Democrat. Why is it that Democrats want illegals voting in our elections? Maybe your voting rights being diluted by illegal activity doesn't mean anything to you, but it means a lot to me. Its very easily stopped by showing identification, it doesn't cost anything to demand identification, and all persons of voting age lawfully in this country have such identification, even "shutins." Again, elderly people have been showing id to get medical benefits for years and years, and claiming its a hardship on them is manufacturing a problem that simply doesn't exist in this day and age.

sunray's wench said...

Call me cynical, but could it be that the voter ID bill was deliberately placed before the others not because it is contentious, but because the other bills are?

Could this be the Governor's revenge for the Perkins incident?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

12:19, who are you arguing against? You've got a lot of anger given that you've already admitted there's not a single instance you can point to of anyone's voting rights being "diluted by illegal activity."

Clearly you've got your own hobby horse on this issue, but your comments here don't respond to either my post or any of the other commenters. Much of what you wrote (in the three anon comments I assume came from the same person) is either false or just plain silly. E.g., I attended one of those rallies two years ago but I'm a US citizen and so were many others there, perhaps you'd be surprised to learn. Anyway, this post is about the bills in jeopardy from the debate, not the merits of Voter ID which I'd encourage you to go debate over at Paul Burka's shop, where somebody may care about your opinion on the subject. That's not what this post was about.

Sunray, this doesn't have anything to do with the Governor or what happened in the Senate. It's all internal politics to the House. I think the Speaker and others didn't anticipate the Dems' tactics, though they should have. They were caught by surprise.

Anonymous said...

You will never get the Dem's to agree on voted ID. The simple truth is the Dem's don't want voter ID because it will affect their base. If you removed all the illegal’s and triple registered voters how would they get elected? The fact that it would protect the people of Texas from voter fraud would go against them at the voter booth

doran said...

"If you removed all the illegal’s and triple registered voters how would they get elected?"

Anon, this is hyperbole. Right? You don't have a single fact to back up this comment. No examples of a Republican losing an election to a Democrat because of all those etc etc voting illegally. Right?

Anonymous said...

This would prevent illegal immigrants, identity thieves and criminals (that are not authorized by law to vote) from voting in Texas elections.This is only a real problem in Rush Limbaugh's world. In truth, the bill is targeted at the elderly minority groups that most often vote Democratic. Anyone who is being honest about the motive behind the bill will tell you that. They use illegal immigration to trick the rank and file uneducated Republican into voting for it.

Anonymous said...

I like Perry's opinion on the legislature...
“My goal, generally, is to keep the Legislature out of town,” Perry said.
(as reported in the Chron.) That works for me.

Soronel Haetir said...

In regard to how easy it is for folks to get ahold of a copy of their birth certificate, there are still folks born before birth certificates came into use or the county archive of such were destroyed in the meantime. This happened to my great grandmother, born in 1909, the county she was born in simply had no records before 1930. It took a great deal of effort to get ID for her.

However the only folks I've seen complain about the Indiana voter ID law were a group of nuns who were more than capable of doing the required work, they simply refused to do so as a protest.

So the law may be a solution in search of a problem but it also doesn't appear to create unsurmountable new problems.

Anonymous said...

Grits, I made 2 posts on your blog. I made them in response to Don, so saying that my comments "here don't respond to either my post or any of the other commenters" is rather stunning. Furthermore, I am a US citizen and I was at the rallies too, so your point would be . . . .? I merely stated what I observed. If you did not observe the same activities that I did, does that mean they did not happen? What did I say that was false? What is silly? I don't find radical leftwing groups like ACORN's attempting to register illegal aliens to vote to be silly, and its something that I personally observed. So sorry that I was obviously unaware of the unwritten rule that others can comment but that only people who agree with you can respond to those comments. Trust me, now that I understand your commenting rules, I won't bother to read your blog again. PS, this is my third comment.

Don said...

Anon (3rd comment): I guess you won't read this since you aren't reading Grits anymore. Even though I told you why some were against the bill, my point was always that it wasn't a big deal, and the country wasn't being given away to illegal immigrants, or whatever. The point of the post, and what I was trying to reinforce, is that the voter id bill was being hyped and was forestalling some other bills that were far more important to get passed. Scott listed examples of this in the post. You seem to miss each point. Grits wasn't chastising you for disagreeing, he was pointing out the you were off topic by arguing the merits of the voter id bill. If you had said that your arguments supported the proposition that the voter id bill was more important to get passed than all these innocence and exoneration bills Scott was talking about, then it would have been more to the point of the original post. Boy, that was a lot of work. Wish you still reading it.

Informed Citizen said...

RE: SB 1976

The Courts "overcame the subsequent writ hurdle" in 1996, if not before.

The US Supreme Court held, and in 1996 the TX CCA followed, in holding that the imprisonment of an innocent person is a violation of 'Due Process of Law'.

In other words: Statutory Laws, including SB 1976 if passed, is UNCONSTITUTIONAL.

NO statutory law "hurdle" can close the Court by Shifting the Blame to the innocent. IE; to deny the opportunity for relief from the wrongful conviction on the excuse that the convicted (or their counsel) failed to prove their innocence in a prior review.

But this was not needed. The "hurdle" was eliminated in 1887 in our US Constitution with our Texas Constitution in 1836 when these laws established the Writ of Habeas Corpus as an INVIOLATE Right, never to be suspended.

EVERY court in the land is OPEN (if the Judge be honorable and competent) even if it is the 100th Writ, providing it show by a preponderance of the evidence that no rational jury could convict beyond a reasonable doubt.

Whatever the reason there might be for the convicted failing to show this in prior reviews, legal or factual, is immaterial and irrelevant.

THAT is how these DNA cases came to light in the first place - by overcoming the "subsequent writ hurdle" Whitmire's bill portends to overcome.

Grits post:
Habeas Writs and Junk Science: A compromise reached with prosecutors on SB 1976 by Whitmire would let appellants overcome the "subseqent writ" hurdle

grandmom said...

Give me a break! People do not steal someone else' identity in order to vote. Undocumented workers don't go near a place that might become suspicious of their status. Names that appear 2 or 3 times on the poll list just might be noticed. You must present your id to register. Voting should be easy, not impossible. People who live with someone else, who don't drive or get utility bills or official govt mail for whatever reason will be affected, You may too, if one day you get sick or disabled and have to move in with your kids. I work the polls and don't look forward to telling folks who have been standing in line for an hour that they can't vote.

Anonymous said...

What I want to know is:

How can Anon (3rd comment) can tell someone is an illegal alien by looking at them?

Anonymous said...

Grandma, I am not the anon who wrote the comments, but the fact is, ACORN people are being indicted in several states for registering people illegally to vote. Why would they break the law to register someone to vote if they didn't intend people to vote illegally? And Anon 12:40, its not that hard to spot an illegal. Its really easy when the person is waving a Mexican flag and screaming that he is here illegally, as were many at those illegals rallies. And Don, its funny how you keep agreeing with Grits that Anon is missing the point by arguing about the merits and contents of the Voter ID bill, and then you do the very same thing. I think everyone got the point of the post, that the bill was being used as leverage to get other bills passed. Perhaps Anon wanted to make an additional point?

Don said...

anon 4:10 pm
yeah, that was funny, wasn't it. :-) He got so exercised about defending the voter id bill that he made me forget what I was trying to say.

grandmom said...

To Anonymous. about ACORN: They were arrested for taking registration forms to the mail box for shut-ins they were trying to help, who couldn't get out to do it themselves. Unfortunately, it is against the law to take a voter registration form out of someone's hand and put it in the mail: and not deliver it personally to the county registrar. A lot of well-meaning folks do not know that. Obviously you don't. I do, because I was a deputy registrar. False information on a Voter Registration Application can get you 180 days in jail, $2000 fine, or both.

Anonymous said...

Indiana passed motor-voter just pass it here. It's NOT that big of a deal.

Mark#1 said...

Funny, since I don't listen to Rush, I had not heard about the ACORN connection to illegal aliens. A google search of those terms failed to turn up a reputable news source with a story connecting the two. It seems these apocryphal stories tend to dry up in the sunlight.
Sorry about responding to the troll, but his hysteria about the issue raised my suspicions.

Robert said...

If you aren't going to have to show a Texas ID to vote then I'm going to ask Leo Berman to introduce legislation next session to bar ANYONE from asking for Texas ID for ANYTHING, from banks to bars.

Robert said...

Except for the Starr County stuffed fake voter boxes that elected LBJ, (democrat) to the Senate, there hasn't ever been hardly ever any mentionable, significant, noticed, demonstrable, proven, easily preventable voter fraud in Texas. And what the heck...LBJ and the Democrats stealing that election and going to Washington wasn't any kind of world-changing big deal was it?

Anonymous said...

I am curious about something. Some of the posters here seem to think that since there hasn't been a case of an illegal alien caught voting, that we shouldn't pass laws to prevent it. Well, there isn't a single case that anyone can point to and say that an innocent person has been executed, yet people are falling all over themselves to pass laws to prevent it from happening. Shouldn't we wait until it happens to pass laws against it, like people want to do with Voter ID?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"there isn't a single case that anyone can point to and say that an innocent person has been executed, yet people are falling all over themselves to pass laws to prevent it from happening."

For starters, "falling all over themselves" is strong given that those bills are now dying. As for your (false) comparison between voter ID and the innocence bills, the difference is MANY people have been falsely convicted of crimes and later proven innocent through DNA, etc.. There are real-world examples we can point to of it happening. Not so on the issue voter fraud, unless you go back to LBJ in the '40s, as Robert mentioned.

Don Dickson said...

It still amuses me that members of the Texas House of Representatives may cast votes for each other.

Anonymous said...

Grits, you would be correct if you were responding to what I actually said. I said nothing about people later being proven innocent. I said that there is not once instance that anyone can point to and say an innocent person was executed. Can you point to one? Yet you and others are very concerned about keeping this from happening. I am simply saying that if the rationale for not passing laws to prevent illegals from voting is that no one can point to it having happened, shouldn't that rationale also be applied to passing bills trying to keep an innocent person from being executed?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

The innocence bills are not about the death penalty.We know innocent people sometimes get convicted, so the innocence bills have much more credibility on that score than voter ID. Your argument is a ridiculous red herring and false on its face - an effort to avoid a valid argument instead of promoting one.

Anonymous said...

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"there isn't a single case that anyone can point to and say that an innocent person has been executed, yet people are falling all over themselves to pass laws to prevent it from happening."

WRONGO GRITS! Ruben Cantu was murdered in Huntsville for a crime with all the fixings of what should have been an exoneration. Just because Texas doesn't recognize it murdered an innocent person doesn't mean it hasn't happened. You have too much faith in the institutions of this state. THEY ARE BROKEN! Let's keep it real.

Don said...

anon. 10:58 A.M. in your zeal to play "gotcha" with Grits, you got the wrong guy. Scott didn't say that. He quoted it so he could take issue with the "anonymous" who said it. If you would become a regular reader, I think you would find that Scott is anything but someone who has too much faith in government institutions and doesn't believe they are broken. But read the whole thing, not just something you want to argue about. That way, maybe you will at least get the right poster. I don't think someone who used to work for Texas ACLU and now works for the Innocence project is some gullible police state apologist.

Nickle said...

Iraq has a cheap but effective method to be sure everyone votes only once... just drip your finger in this indelible purple ink.

You can wear it with pride for a week or so until it finally washes off.

Anonymous said...

Well DON, I dont care WHO actually said it but I certainly have a problem with that wordage as I think most intelligent people do. You dont know me so let me educate you, my "zeal" was the statement itself, it still is. If I missed the target, well, at least I made my point. Sorry Grits!

SH Larry said...

This voter ID bill killed good legislation. That's just a sad fact, but what's more puzzling to me is that the left stalled and thus killed it knowing they had very good bills that could have and should have passed. In my opinion, they were much, much more important that the Voter I.D. bill.

Dallas. Look at Dallas. 40 people have been proved innocent now. Jesus people.

Get it on a rider somehow... this is important legislation. How disappointing. The disappointment needs to be reflected in the polls, starting with Dunham, who if I'm not mistaken, was the culprit.

SH Larry

Anonymous said...

The fee for a Texas ID card is $15 for those under 60; this card expires every six years. In most cases, you may renew your ID card online for an additional $1 service charge. Those 60 and over get a break―an ID card costs only $5 and never needs to be renewed.

Without a driver's license to show, a Texas ID card is your ticket to boarding an airplane, checking into a hotel, entering a bar, cashing a check, and many other day-to-day activities that require state-issued ID.

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