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Whining about the fracking ban

These guys just can’t believe they lost.

Did college students tilt the outcome of Denton’s vote to ban hydraulic fracturing?

That question has stirred debate since the city – home to the University of North Texas and Texas Woman’s University – became the first in Texas to ban the oilfield technique that sparked a drilling boom and spawned tension in some urban areas.

Overall, the vote wasn’t close. Nearly 59 percent of voters supported the ban, even though its opponents – buoyed by contributions from energy companies – spent far more money. That margin, the ban’s supporters say, amounted to a mandate.

But ban opponents (meaning supporters of fracking) argue that college students disproportionately affected the vote, effectively drowning out Denton’s permanent residents – particularly those living alongside natural gas wells.

“The election returns clearly show the permanent residents of Denton favor property owner rights, economic benefits from responsible drilling and American energy independence while our city’s college students did not,” Bobby Jones, treasurer of anti-ban group Denton Taxpayers for a Strong Economy, said three days after the election.

The ban’s supporters reject that narrative.

“They’re treating a whole group of people as if their votes don’t count as much as other people,” said Adam Briggle, a board member of Frack Free Denton, a group pushing the ban. “My second reaction is, it’s wildly inaccurate.”

See here for the background. The Trib does some number-crunching to show that the pro-frackers’s complaints are largely without merit, but let’s be clear. This is about denigrating the value of the students’ votes, making it seem like their votes don’t, or shouldn’t, count as much as other votes. There’s a reason why student IDs were not deemed acceptable for voter ID purposes. It won’t matter for the purposes of the litigation that’s already been filed, but it is of a piece. Some people’s votes count more than others, and when those others help swing an election, the first reaction in some (Republican) quarters is to de-legitimize those votes. It’s the reality we live in these days, and it’s going to take a lot of effort, and electoral victories, to change that.

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