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New Mexico

The New Mexico abortion option

This should come as a surprise to no one.

Right there with them

Right there with them

Though abortions among residents are down the number of out-of-state women traveling to New Mexico for abortions has grown significantly over the past three years.

According to state Department of Health data, about 20 percent of the roughly 4,500 abortions performed in New Mexico in 2014 involved women from out of state, the Albuquerque Journal reports. Reports suggest that number can be attributed to New Mexico’s few restrictions on abortion.

New Mexico hasn’t passed an abortion law in 16 years and is one of seven states that permits abortions at any stage in a pregnancy.

Comparatively, neighboring Texas, Arizona and Oklahoma each adopted 10 or more abortion restrictions from 2011 to 2015.

Texas women had nearly 9,000 fewer abortions in the first full year since those restrictions were put into place.

Just as a reminder, Texas Republicans passed HB2 on the (false) grounds that all those requirements and restrictions would make abortion safer for women. The state then argued in court that all of the clinics that would or did close as a result did not present an undue burden for women who sought abortions because the ones in the west could just go to New Mexico, which didn’t have all of those allegedly safety-enhancing (and clinic-closing) rules. The numbers bear that out. Funny how these things work, isn’t it? The Press has more.

The Fifth Circuit hears the HB2 arguments

Maybe it’s not a slam dunk for HB2, though I refuse to get my hopes up.

In a long line of tough questioning Wednesday over a new Texas abortion law, federal appeals judges here questioned whether part of a provision requiring abortion facilities to meet hospital-like standards should be struck down.

The possibility that the three-judge panel of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals would rule in favor of the abortion providers seemed slim before this week’s hearing, given that two of the judges had previously upheld some of the state’s abortion restrictions. But on Wednesday, the judges took turns grilling attorneys in taking a deeper dive into the provision.

The provision is part of House Bill 2, which the Texas Legislature passed during a special session in 2013. It requires facilities that perform abortions to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers. This includes minimum sizes for rooms and doorways and additional infrastructure like pipelines for anesthesia. A decision from the Fifth Circuit is not expected for at least several weeks.

Judge Catharina Haynes, the most vocal of the three judges Wednesday, questioned the state’s argument that all of the hospital-like standards being imposed on abortion facilities would improve women’s safety.

“What about that improves the standard of care?” Haynes asked Jonathan Mitchell of the Texas solicitor general’s office, referencing requirements for larger rooms in abortion facilities that would force most abortion providers to retrofit their clinics. “Why can’t you have a sterile environment in a 3,000-square-foot building?”


The judges also zeroed in on the effects of the abortion law on women living in West Texas. Aside from the challenge to the ambulatory surgical center provision, the lawsuit also asks for a reprieve for two clinics from a separate provision of the law that requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of an abortion clinic.

A separate three-judge panel, which included Haynes and Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod, upheld the provision last year. But the providers’ attorneys argue that the two clinics in question, Whole Woman’s Health in McAllen and Reproductive Services in El Paso, shut down because of that provision. The poor, mostly minority women in these areas are disproportionately affected by the law, they argue.

On Wednesday, Elrod questioned whether a substantial amount of women in this area would face challenges in obtaining an abortion when they could travel to New Mexico for the procedure.

Toti said that the state’s argument that the abortion law is meant to improve patient safety is invalidated if they are going to rely on New Mexico as a nearby alternative because its abortion regulations are not as strict as in Texas.

“The state of Texas is essentially forcing abortion providers out of practice and shuttling these patients to New Mexico,” Toti said.

Haynes agreed, questioning whether the state was “undercutting” its own argument. “If these restrictions are so necessary, why send women across the border to New Mexico?” she said.

I still think the fix is in, but at least they made an effort to appear impartial. I assume that one way or another, this will wind up on SCOTUS’ doorstep. Expect the worst but hope for the best. And let’s keep working on how we can win more elections, since keeping this crap from getting out of the Legislature is ultimately the best medicine.

One more thing, from the Chron story:

The American Medical Association has filed a brief supporting opponents of the law, while groups of abortion survivors and state lawmakers have written in support of it.

WTF is an “abortion survivor”? Would you call a woman that has successfully carried a pregnancy to term a “childbirth survivor”? Because as anyone with an ounce of information knows, childbirth is vastly more hazardous than abortion is. I suspect this is a sleazy attempt to equate abortion with a traumatic event. Shame on the Chronicle for uncritically accepting that kind of bullshit. Unfair Park, Newsdesk, and RH Reality Check has more.

Just a reminder that “more gambling” does not necessarily mean “more revenue”

If Atlantic City can go bust…

The winning streak has run cold for Atlantic City, N.J.

Earlier this week, the upscale Revel Casino Hotel announced it will close, bringing the total number of casinos in the city expected to close by the end of the year to four. Thousands of workers are confronting unemployment.

The state has long guaranteed Atlantic City a monopoly on gambling within New Jersey’s borders, but gambling revenues there have been declining due to increased competition from new casinos in neighboring states and the lingering effects of the financial crisis. The monthly report from the state Division of Gaming Enforcement issued Wednesday shows that the trend is continuing, as July’s take declined 7.7 percent year over year.

Pennsylvania, which only legalized casino gambling in the past decade, has replaced New Jersey as the state with the second-largest gambling industry. More casinos have been proposed in New York. Yet revenues have been disappointing across the region. In New Jersey, they have declined by around half from a high of $5.2 billion in 2006.

Most disappointing for investors has been the performance of the casinos’ new online gaming businesses. The prospect of online revenues has kept several casinos open despite declining income.

“A lot of these casinos have been unprofitable for quite some time,” said Alex Bumazhny, an analyst at Fitch Ratings.

Online gamblers haven’t anted up, though, and several casinos have folded. Bumazhny estimates that online gaming revenues for New Jersey businesses will total only around $125 million this year. Revel follows The Atlantic Club, which closed in January, and the Showboat and the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, also expected to close this year.

I like to note this sort of news item because as sure as the sun rises, at some point in the fall as the elections get settled and legislators start pre-filing bills, I’m going to get a press release from a pro-gambling expansion group touting the economic benefits of slot machines at horse racing tracks and/or casinos. Said press release and its accompanying economic study will point out the vast number of Texans that are currently gambling in Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and other non-Texas states, and will lament the money that could have been spent and gambled right here. My point is that the casinos and riverboats and what have you in Louisiana and New Mexico and Oklahoma and wherever else won’t simply give up the business those traveling Texans bring them without a fight, and the competition they will bring to hold onto their existing customers as well as lure new ones may possibly have a downward effect on those numbers in those press releases and economic studies. This isn’t about whether one does support or should support expanded gambling in Texas – as you well know by now, I am deeply ambivalent about it. It’s just a reminder to keep a sense of perspective when the issue heats up as it always does every two years.

If it can happen in Utah…

Wow. Just, wow.


A federal judge struck down Utah’s same-sex marriage ban Friday in a decision that marks a drastic shift toward gay marriage in a conservative state where the Mormon church has long been against it.

The decision set off an immediate frenzy as the clerk in the state’s most populous county began issuing marriage licenses to gay couples while state officials took steps to appeal the ruling and halt the process.

Cheers erupted as the mayor of Salt Lake City led the state’s first gay wedding ceremony in an office building about three miles from the headquarters of the Mormon church. Dozens of other couples were lined up to get marriage licenses.

Deputy Salt Lake County Clerk Dahnelle Burton-Lee said the district attorney authorized her office to begin issuing the licenses but she couldn’t immediately say how many had been issued.

Just hours earlier, U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby issued a 53-page ruling saying the constitutional amendment Utah voters approved in 2004 violates gay and lesbian couples’ rights to due process and equal protection under the 14th Amendment. Shelby said the state failed to show that allowing same-sex marriages would affect opposite-sex marriages in any way.

“In the absence of such evidence, the State’s unsupported fears and speculations are insufficient to justify the State’s refusal to dignify the family relationships of its gay and lesbian citizens,” Shelby wrote.


The Utah ruling comes the same week New Mexico’s highest court legalized gay marriage after declaring it unconstitutional to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples. A new law passed in Hawaii last month now allows gay couples to marry there.

If the ruling stands, Utah would become the 18th state to allow gay marriages, said Jon Davidson, director of Lambda Legal, which pursues litigation on LGBT issues nationwide. That’s up from six before the U.S. Supreme Court last summer struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act that defined marriage as between a man and a woman. The District of Columbia also allows same-sex marriage.

“The momentum we are seeing is unprecedented in any human rights struggle,” Davidson said. “To have this fast a change in the law and in public opinion, is quite remarkable.”

Between this ruling and the one in New Mexico (more on that in a minute), I’d say equality opponents in Texas now truly have something to worry about. I still don’t think the Fifth Circuit will cooperate, but I’m less certain of that than I was two days ago. One reason for that is the way the judges in these cases made their rulings. For example, the Utah judge cited Justice Scalia’s dissent in the DOMA case in support of his ruling, and though the New Mexico case was decided in state court, the judge that wrote the opinion there clearly had one eye on SCOTUS.

The “responsible procreation” argument is utter bunk.

These days, conservatives shy away from arguing that gay people make bad parents, because they definitely, unquestionably, absolutely do not. Instead, the argument has subtly shifted to a new sophism: Marriage laws are meant to encourage “responsible procreation” by opposite-sex couples so that if the woman gets pregnant, the state won’t have an orphan on its hands. The implication, of course, is that gays play no part in this schema, and so it would be absurd to allow them into the marriage club.

Wrong, says Justice Edward L. Chávez, speaking for the court—in fact, New Mexico’s own marriage law makes no mention whatsoever of procreation, exposing the argument’s gesture toward tradition as the claptrap that it is. Instead, “the purpose of New Mexico marriage laws is to bring stability and order to the legal relationship of committed couples … [and] their children.” Plus, “fertility has never been a condition of marriage,” so heterosexual gay marriage opponents clearly aren’t even playing by their own rules. Finally, Chávez drives in the knife:

[W]e fail to see how forbidding same-gender marriages will result in the marriages of more opposite-gender couples for the purpose of procreating, or how authorizing same-gender marriages will result in the marriages of fewer opposite-gender couples for the purpose of procreating.

These points may seem obvious, but the “responsible procreation” argument has gained some ground since it made an appearance before the U.S. Supreme Court last March. Now a court has been fully briefed on the matter, and the verdict couldn’t be clearer: This argument is dead in the water.

The state of Utah made that “responsible procreation” argument as well, as I’m sure Texas will in February. But now there’s a lot more precedent for swatting down these hurtful, discriminatory laws down. That makes this upcoming hearing that much more important. To all the couples in Utah now getting married, congratulations and mazel tov! To everyone in Utah and elsewhere now freaking out that the end of civilization is nigh, relax. It totally isn’t, as you will soon see for yourself. It’s just more love and happiness and equality and justice, and last I checked those were all good things.

More on the local GOP’s lawsuit against same sex spouse insurance benefits

Family Court? What’s up with that?


City Attorney Dave Feldman said Wednesday that the city of Houston and Mayor Annise Parker were not given notice before a family district court judge halted a recent policy change extending health and life insurance benefits to city employees in same-sex marriages.

“I’m not even sure how this ended up in family court. This is not a divorce, adoption or custody case,” Feldman said.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Judge Lisa Millard’s court by Jared Woodfill, Harris County’s GOP chairman, claims the policy change violates Houston’s city charter, the state’s Defense of Marriage Act and the Texas Constitution. Millard signed a temporary restraining order late Tuesday, halting the policy change until a Jan. 6 hearing.

“If this had been filed in a regular civil district court, be assured the city would have received notice and been given the opportunity to be there before any restraining order was entered,” Feldman said. Feldman said he plans to appeal Millard’s ruling on Thursday.

I don’t quite get filing this suit in Family Court. I’d have assumed a Civil District Court would be the normal route. I don’t know that it makes any difference, I’m just curious. Any lawyers want to weigh in on that?

Because the Defense of Marriage Act is a statute in the Texas Family Code, a family court is the appropriate venue, Woodfill said. He also said he sent Feldman two emails before the Tuesday hearing in Millard’s court.

“He didn’t respond to direct email,” Woodfill said. “We notified him twice and he didn’t respond.”

Woodfill said he hopes the case will pique the interest of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who could intervene in the case.

“Because we are talking about an elected official who has recognized same-sex marriage, in violation of Texas law, I would think that would be an issue the Attorney General’s Office would want to weigh in on,” Woodfill said. As of Wednesday evening, Abbott had not made a statement about the case.

Yes, I’d love to hear what Abbott has to say, too. As noted before, he seems to be picking his spots. He might prefer to avoid getting tangled up in this sort of brouhaha, which is exactly why I hope he gets pressed on it. Abbott is at least aware enough to realize that he’s on the losing side and that the more he fights the faster he’s likely to bring about his side’s demise. Woodfill doesn’t appear to suffer from that level of clarity. Don’t look now, Jared, but same sex marriage is right on your doorstep. Are you ready for the change that’s coming?

I do not expect another Ardmore

The AusChron tries to get out the Democrats’ strategy for Special Session 2.

When the Texas House convened last last month to pass, on third reading and onto the Senate for final passage, Senate Bill 5, the omnibus abortion regulations bill, Austin Rep. Elliott Naishtat heard several colleagues discussing whether House Dems would be ready to walk out – to break quorum – in order to stop the measure from moving forward.

Among the questions before Democrats as they face today’s start of a second-called special session, with passage of abortion regulations first on Gov. Rick Perry’s to do list, is whether a mid-summer, out-of-state sojourn may be in the cards. “There was talk about it” on the floor last month, he said, “and there will undoubtedly be talk about it again.”


With the 30-day special-called session only getting under way today, there is plenty of time for Republicans to maneuver to pass the divisive measures – as one Capitol staffer said last week, not even Davis can talk for 30 days. But there remain other strategies to explore, said Austin Democratic Sen. Kirk Watson – though he declined to offer specifics. “I’m not going to get into strategies,” he said, “but we’re not going to give up the fight.”


Requiring testimony in each chamber may be one way to moderate the legislation’s forward progress, but it is unlikely to do much to halt the ever-forward movement. So, might a mid-summer trip to a nearby state be the way to go? That’s certainly an option, says [Rep. Donna] Howard. Though, realistically, says Naishtat, he isn’t sure that it would work to derail the measure completely. “I don’t see how House or Senate Democrats could break quorum for the amount of time necessary to defeat the bill – it could be as much as three weeks,” he said. “On the other hand, other people doubted that Sen. Wendy Davis could pull off a filibuster. So what I’m saying is, you never know.” Indeed, Naishtat agrees that at this point, every option is on the table. And it would be “foolish,” he said, for Republicans to “underestimate our power, our intelligence, our mastery of the rules, and our commitment to doing everything legal to prevent the passage of … anti-pro-choice bills.”

I’m not privy to the Dems’ thinking, and I certainly wouldn’t dismiss any feasible possibility out of hand, but I have a hard time seeing how a quorum break would be successful. As with the Davis filibuster, all it can do is delay. It can’t prevent any of this awful legislation from passing, because Rick Perry can just keep calling more sessions, which you know he will. The reason why Ardmore was doable in 2003 was that the Dems only needed to be gone for five days. As with the previous special session, the re-redistricting bill came up late, and it was close enough to the deadline for passing bills out of the House for the Senate to take up that they could bug out on Monday and return on Saturday having accomplished their task. Busting quorum now would be like what the Senate Dems tried to do later that summer. As was the case back then, there was no magic day after which you could say you were in the clear. Maybe they’ve though this through and they know what their endgame is, but I have my doubts. It’s asking an awful lot of a lot of people, and I don’t know how practical it is. I hate to be a wet blanket, and I could be wrong about this, but that’s how I see it.

Two more factors to consider. One is that in the aftermath of Ardmore and Albuquerque, there were some rule changes made in each chamber to make future quorum busts more difficult and more punitive to the fleeing party. I don’t remember the details, but I do feel confident that the Rs would be extremely vengeful towards a caucus that skipped town. Two, back in 2003 the Governors of Oklahoma and New Mexico were both Democrats, and thus unwilling to cooperate with the efforts to locate and extradite the Killer Ds. Both Governors are Republicans now, so no such assistance would be in the offing. The only neighboring state now with a Democratic Governor is Arkansas, but I would not want to put my fate in that state’s hands. The nearest state where I’d feel safe, politically speaking at least, is Colorado. Point being, any out of state excursion would need to be done by air, not by bus, which increases the cost, the risk factor, and the likelihood of something going wrong because there’s just too much you can’t control.

Anyway. If it were up to me, I’d do everything I could to drag the proceedings out, while giving the crazier members of the GOP caucus as many opportunities to say something as stupid as Rep. Laubenberg did last session, and I’d lay whatever groundwork I could for litigation to block the law. The name of the game is the 2014 election. Go down fighting, keep everyone engaged, and be ready to pick up where you left off as soon as the session ends. Be sure to read the whole AusChron story, there’s a lot more in there besides quorum breaking.

We’re exporting feral hogs

You’re welcome, neighboring states.

Feral pigs have already taken over Texas and are expanding their numbers in other states, but federal and state land managers think they have a chance to tip the balance in New Mexico. They’re willing to bet $1 million in federal funds on a yearlong pilot project aimed at eradicating the pigs and using what they learn here to keep them from gaining a foothold elsewhere.

It marks the first time the U.S. Department of Agriculture has teamed up with a state to develop a comprehensive plan for getting rid of the pigs.

A small army of state and federal employees has been trained to stalk, trap and kill New Mexico’s feral pigs. Various techniques have been used by wildlife managers and landowners for decades in the fight against feral swine, but the New Mexico team is focusing on determining what combination works best in which circumstances and how effectively helicopters can be to track the pigs across vast landscapes.

“We’re trying to get ahead of the curve with this so we can prevent a lot of the damage that we know will be coming if we don’t do anything about it,” said USDA Wildlife Services state director Alan May. “Sport hunting pressure alone won’t be enough to stop a population from spreading.”

You can say that again.

In Mississippi, peanut farmers often wake to find uprooted plants. In Texas, where there are an estimated 2.6 million pigs, the animals have moved from destroying pastures and crops to tearing up suburban gardens.

Texans spend about $7 million a year on trying to control pigs and repair some of the damage, said Billy Higginbotham, a professor and wildlife specialist at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center.

“We’re not like New Mexico, Nebraska or Kansas, for example, where we’re just beginning to get a few and can probably think in terms of eradication,” he said. “What we’re simply trying to do here is not even use the “e” word — eradication — but to think in terms of managing the damage.”

SciGuy reminds us how challenging that is.

In 2010, an estimated 750,000 pigs were harvested, or 29 percent of the population. That sounds harsh, but it’s really not.

The scientists estimate with such a harvest the feral hog population will still double every five years. Even a high harvest — 41 percent of the population, annually — will allow the wild pig population to actually grow by 12 percent a year.

An annual harvest rate of 66 percent is required to hold the feral hog population in check, the scientists believe.

That’s something like 1.8 million of the beasties a year, at current population levels. There aren’t enough helicopters in the state for that. Good luck controlling your hog invasion, New Mexico.

Who gets the water?

This will be worth watching.

A simple idea has guided appropriations of Texas water for decades: First come, first served.

Now, with drought conditions returning to almost the entire state, the principle is being put to the test by a fight over water in the Brazos River.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is withholding water from some, but not all, rights holders to meet the needs of the Dow Chemical Co., which operates a massive manufacturing complex where the river empties into the Gulf of Mexico.

Farmers have sued to get their water back, saying the state agency overstepped its authority by exempting cities and power producers with rights younger than theirs from the suspension order. The agency based the decision upon “public health, safety and welfare concerns.”

No one disputes the chemical maker’s rights, which date to the 1920s. The legal question is whether TCEQ may consider factors beyond seniority when deciding who gets water first in times of shortage.

“This really will be a precedent-setting case if the courts uphold TCEQ’s position,” said Ronald Kaiser, professor of water law and policy at Texas A&M University. “It is about whether we still believe in the priority system. It is elegantly simple, but its limitation is that we don’t consider the highest economic use of water.”


In the lawsuit, the Texas Farm Bureau and two growers argue that TCEQ does not have the authority to divert from the priority system during drought.

The order leaves more than 700 farmers without surface water for irrigation, while dozens of others with junior rights, including the cities of Houston and Waco and NRG Energy, will not be restricted in their use.

“It turns the priority system on its head,” said Regan Beck, assistant general counsel for public policy at the Farm Bureau.

Mark McPherson, a Dallas-based lawyer who specializes in water rights but is not involved in the lawsuit, agreed.

“When the historic state priority system is changed so materially, it makes those who planned based on the priority system look foolish, and it makes those who benefit from the change look lucky,” McPherson said. “I don’t think that’s a proper use of agency power.”

The solution, he said, is for those who need more water to pay for it. State law allows TCEQ to transfer water rights to meet urgent public health and safety needs, but doing so requires compensation, which was not offered in this case.

“The correct answer is perhaps harsh, but nonetheless necessary: Go acquire more water rights, at the market cost, and pass those costs on to the users,” McPherson said. “And if this were allowed to happen, we’d quickly feel, and finally understand, that water supply is a critical factor in economic competition.”

I’m not a lawyer and I know precious little about water rights, but what McPherson says makes sense to me. I can’t wait to see what the court says. I imagine the Lege will be interested in this decision as well, as it may force them to rewrite some existing laws, and it may give them some extra incentive to tackle that long-term water issue.

Meanwhile, in other water dispute news, the state of Texas has filed a complaint with the Supreme Court against New Mexico over water from the Rio Grande.

In its complaint, Texas says that New Mexico has dodged a 1938 agreement to deliver Texas’ share of Rio Grande river. Instead, New Mexico is illegally allowing diversions of both surface and underground water hydrologically connected to the Rio Grande downstream of Elephant Butte reservoir in New Mexico, according to the filing.

The complaint, filed after New Mexico took its own legal actions and after years of negotiations, asks the Supreme Court to command New Mexico to deliver water apportioned to Texas.

The Rio Grande is the primary, and at some places the only, source of water for much of the agricultural land within Texas. Water from the river constitutes, on average, half the annual water supply for El Paso, according to the filing.

“So long as New Mexico refuses to acknowledge its Rio Grande Compact obligations to Texas, no amount of negotiation or mediation can address Texas’ claims,” the filing said. “And so long as the matter continues unresolved by this Court, New Mexico can simply continue to divert, pump and use water in excess of its Rio Grande Compact apportionment, to the continued detriment of Texas.”

Conservation in El Paso has been emphasized for decades, said state Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso. “The community has rallied behind conservation as important,” he said. “But we have rights to access to water: Water in the desert is crucial.”

New Mexico Attorney General Gary King fired back Thursday in a statement that Texas’ court filing was “tantamount to extortion.”

New Mexico farmers already can draw less water from the Elephant Butte reservoir following an agreement several years ago between the two states. King said the Texas complaint, if successful, would “deplete the water in southern New Mexico in a manner that would destroy the long-term viability of water resources.”

The Trib also covered this and another dispute between Tarrant County and Oklahoma that SCOTUS has agreed to adjudicate. I figure we’re going to see a lot more of this sort of thing in the coming years.

There’s an app for registering voters

In New Mexico. It needs to go nationwide.

Jason Libersky is a deputy voter agent in New Mexico. He spends much of his time at community events throughout Albuquerque registering people to vote using an iPad application he created — the Evotee.

While sitting in a Central New Mexico Community College classroom he explains how the Evotee app works. 

“I’ve always had a passion for politics, but not necessarily participating in it as much as I should. And when I realized what those hurdles were to my participation is when I started thinking of things like a voter registration app,” Libersky said.

The Evotee app is used on an iPad. It’s an electronic voter registration form that compiles essential data, like date of birth and Social Security Number. It also attaches copies of supporting documents like a picture of an ID. And the form can be signed on the tablet.

With a click of a button the information is electronically sent directly to the voter registration office. For Libersky this new mobile application means more people, in more remote communities, have a chance of registering to vote.

“Society is now moving at the speed of information and government’s not,” Libersky said. “And, so, I was looking for ways to improve the process and facilitate communication between citizens, politicians and government.”

That’s what caught the attention of the clerk’s office in Bernalillo County, where Libersky lives. Like most counties, Bernalillo has a voter registration form that must be completed, signed and mailed. So, when county officials learned about Evotee earlier this year, they decided to test it.

“It’s been real exciting and nice to see these applications coming in,” said County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver. She said the app has become the preferred way for registering future voters.

“Anything that we as election officials can be doing to encourage, simplify, and break down the barriers to the election process is and should be our priority.”

Isn’t that a refreshing attitude? Voter registration is at its heart filling out a form and then submitting it, with the back end being a database. Which is to say that it’s pretty much identical in structure to the vast majority of other apps out there. It’s exactly the sort of thing that apps are supposed to be for. You can easily include whatever proof of identity you might want or need – a scan of a driver’s license or other acceptable ID, a photo of the registrant – iPads have cameras in them – or whatever else. Hell, you could probably do fingerprint and retinal scans if you really wanted to – just about anything short of a urine sample would be doable. There’s no valid technical argument against this idea. Just politics.

“While like it sounds like a wonderful idea for democracy in getting more people involved, we’re currently seeing, you know, a lot of push-back,” said Matt Barreto of the political research firm Latino Decisions. He’s talking about laws like the one in Arizona, and in other states like Texas, that make it more difficult to register voters. 

“I think they’re gonna be very reluctant to allow this technology to come in and say hey here’s a process that makes it very easy to register to vote,” he said. Those states could reject Evotee, with a concern the app would be susceptible to ID fraud.

No more than they would be when used in commerce, as these devices increasingly are. Again, you can equip these things with a magnetic stripe reader to swipe a drivers license or other ID card, and you can take a picture of the registrant and include it with the form. Of course, as things stand now this would almost certainly be illegal in Texas, though perhaps the current litigation will help clarify things. Even with a favorable outcome for the plaintiffs in that suit, don’t expect to see this in Texas any time soon. Link via NewsTaco.

The western SUPERTRAIN

You’ve heard of the Texas T-Bone SUPERTRAIN proposal that would link up Houston. San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas. That’s already been designated as one of the high-speed rail corridors that are in line for federal funding. There’s another such corridor that includes Texas and it’s farther out west.

New Mexico, Colorado and Texas are applying for federal funds to study the viability of a high-speed rail system in the hopes of putting new life into passenger railroads in the Intermountain West.

Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said Thursday the 720-mile high-speed rail system would travel at speeds of 110 mph to more than 200 mph from El Paso, Texas, through Albuquerque to Denver.

“The West was connected to the rest of the country by railroads. Our history is until the 1880s and the coming of the railroads, we were isolated,” Udall said. “You could view (the proposed high-speed rail corridor) as a second wave which revives the railroads that we’ve allowed to wither.”

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Udall, a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said the three states will submit a joint pre-application Friday for up to $5 million to pay for the study.

Congress has authorized up to 11 high-speed rail corridors nationwide. Ten have been designated, and the three states hope to become home to the 11th.

“Today, you cannot get from Albuquerque to Denver by rail without changing trains in Los Angeles or Chicago, and our regional railways run from East to West, with no North-South connections,” Udall said.


The Federal Railroad Administration will decide which region gets the 11th high-speed rail corridor designation based on the strength of their applications, FRA spokesman Rob Kulat said.

New Mexico, Colorado and Texas may have competition. Kulat declined to say how many pre-applications for feasibility studies the FRA has received so far.

“Quite a few are in already, but the number is going to grow by tomorrow,” he said.

Final applications for the grants are due Aug. 24, he said.

Seems like a reasonable place for a rail corridor. I wish them luck.