Friday, March 16, 2012

Voter ID Law Falls Short | Casey's Last Word

Many years ago I was honored by The Snake Pit, a group of old-line politicos whose leaders included the late West Side printer and political philosopher Ruben Munguia.

It was a bipartisan group of elected officials and other political junkies that met every Saturday morning at Mi Tierra to swap gossip, tell stories and, in those gentler days, to good-naturedly rib each other.

I’m proud to say they made me an “honorary viper,” sparing every expense in handing me a computer-generated certificate totally unsuitable for framing.

I regret to say I don’t remember the name of the gentleman who emceed, but I do remember him saying he himself was a Democrat, though he thoroughly enjoyed the friendship of many Republicans. He said he found only one fault with Republicans, which explained the reason he couldn’t be one.

“They find it so hard to make a long-term commitment,” he said.

“They just can’t seem to do it. For example, it’s almost impossible to get a dead Republican to vote.”

What made the joke funny was, of course, the long history of voter fraud in Texas, most famously in the election of “Landslide” Lyndon Johnson to the U.S. Senate.

But here’s the thing about dead voters: They almost never vote in person.

That’s part of the problem the Justice Department has with Texas’s new Voter ID law.

Figures provided by the Texas secretary of state indicate hundreds of thousands of registered Texas voters don’t have state-issued photo IDs, many live in counties that have no driver’s license offices, and Hispanics are affected disproportionately.

The Voter ID law makes it hard for them to vote but the law does not address a problem that has been shown to exist.

Several years ago, Attorney General Greg Abbott decried an “epidemic” of voter fraud and spent several million dollars on investigations.

The result was an anemic 26 indictments. Most involved not voter fraud but violations by persons collecting mail ballots.

Not one involved a person going to the polls to vote illegally.

Voting by mail is the modern fraud of preference. And it requires no ID card.

In 2004, Hubert Vo, a Houston Democrat, defeated Talmadge Heflin, the Republican chair of the powerful Texas House Appropriations Committee, by 33 votes.

Heflin charged massive voter fraud.

"What we found in our initial examination of the voting was shocking," he told one reporter.

"You hear tales of such things in politics but hardly believe they could be true."

After a thorough investigation Heflin’s attorney, Andy Taylor, then the Republican’s top lawyer on voter fraud, presented two long days of testimony to a special master appointed by the Republican House Speaker, Tom Craddick.

The master, also a Republican, listened carefully and then ruled: "No evidence was presented that any illegal vote was made with knowledge of illegality or intent to violate election law."

One alien was found to have voted illegally.

Norwegian Henning Eilert-Olsen apparently was given a voter registration card when he applied for a driver’s license.

He filled it out and sent it in. Despite the fact that he checked the “no” box on whether he was a citizen, he was sent a voter registration card and reasonably assumed he was authorized to vote.

He was asked under oath for whom he voted.

“Mr. Heflin,” he said.

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