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Once again, voter ID is a non-solution to a non-problem

Greg Abbott’s record is all the proof you need of this.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Attorney General Greg Abbott champions a requirement for voters to show photo identification to prevent ballot fraud. But such a rule would have deterred just a few of the cases his office has prosecuted in the last eight years.

Abbott, who’s making his defense of the state’s voter ID law a centerpiece of his campaign for governor, has pursued 66 people on charges of voting irregularities since 2004. Only four cases involved someone illegally casting a ballot at a polling place where a picture ID would have prevented it.

In most cases, voter-fraud violations in Texas have involved mail-in ballots. A few involved felons who aren’t allowed to vote. Some involved an election official engaged in illegal behavior. But none of those would have been stopped by the photo ID requirement.

Nevertheless, Abbott defends voter ID and says the fact that he hasn’t found many cases of in-person voter fraud doesn’t mean there aren’t any.

In his most extensive interview on the issue as attorney general, Abbott cited a Supreme Court opinion upholding photo ID in an Indiana case. The high court suggested the presence of absentee-vote fraud likely means voter-impersonation is happening as well.

“Anyone who thinks there isn’t cheating going on at the ballot box is wrong,” Abbott said. “It doesn’t matter that the cheating is in-person voter impersonation or absentee ballot. The Supreme Court says it doesn’t matter. What matters more is the integrity of the election system.”

The attorney general’s role defending the law and his record prosecuting voter fraud cases, mostly against Democrats and racial minorities, could become an issue in next year’s elections, when Abbott is seeking the GOP nomination for governor.

And in the meantime, the law is one of the frontiers in the escalating national battle over voting rights. The U.S. Justice Department and Texas Democrats are challenging the 2011 Texas law requiring ID in court. The law requires state-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license or a concealed handgun permit. It has yet to be used in a major election.

Supporters say photo ID is an effective way to prevent ballot fraud. Opponents say there’s no evidence of widespread fraud in Texas and the law’s real intent is to suppress the votes of people who tend to vote Democrat, particularly lower-income people, blacks and Hispanics.

“If you really wanted to go after all the voter irregularities, you’d be looking at mail ballots,” said state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, the San Antonio Democrat who chairs the Mexican American Legislative Caucus. “You’d be looking at poll worker activity and electioneering. You’d be looking at the aggressive groups that are out there intimidating voters when they stand in line at a polling place.”

Fischer said Abbott’s own record prosecuting few cases in which photo ID would have been effective suggests the requirement is about putting obstacles in the way of Democratic voters, not stopping illegal voting.

Abbott’s justification for his relentless voter fraud hunting is pretty much the same as the justification Bigfoot hunters give. His pursuit is only marginally less irrational.

Look, it’s not just that if you really cared about the integrity of the vote you’d ask the Legislature to do something about the cases that have made up almost 95% of your prosecutions, instead of obsessively focusing on that tiny minority of them. There’s also the ridiculously and selectively restrictive nature of the voter ID law, in which a concealed handgun license is valid ID but a student ID isn’t. There’s the pathetically non-existent effort to provide IDs for those that don’t have them, such as making people who don’t have drivers licenses travel up to 200 miles to get a valid alternative ID. And of course there’s the separate but equally problematic legislation to crack down on voter registration. (See this otherwise amenable to voter ID editorial from the Star Telegram for a list of things the Lege could have done but chose not to do to make the law somewhat less onerous.) Putting it all together puts the lie to the claims about protecting the integrity of the vote. It’s always been about making it harder for certain people to cast a ballot. If the claim that voter ID was really about “protecting the integrity of the vote” was one of Abbott’s prosecutions, the charge would have been dismissed by now. Trail Blazers and EoW have more.

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One Comment

  1. Brad M. says:

    Abbott’s voter suppression efforts is obscene.