Straus faces ruling on Brown Voter I.D. amendment
Mon March 30, 2009 1:37 pm

The vehicle is HB 71 by Corte. The crucial question is whether a Voter I.D. amendment is germane. The caption and the text of the bill are quite specific. In a rational world, a point of order would have to be upheld, but since when is the Texas House a rational world? The text of the bill follows. I do not have a copy of the amendment.

A BILL TO BE ENTITLED
AN ACT

relating to the establishment of a program to provide a ballot by electronic mail to military personnel serving overseas and their spouses and dependents residing overseas.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:

SECTION 1. Chapter 101, Election Code, is amended by adding Section 101.0072 to read as follows:

Sec. 101.0072. ELECTRONIC MAIL BALLOT PROGRAM. (a) The secretary of state shall implement a program to allow the use of electronic mail to provide balloting materials for a general election for state and county officers to an overseas voter who is:

(1) a member of the armed forces of the United States; or

(2) a spouse or dependent of a member of the armed forces of the United States.

(b) A county with a population of 100,000 or more shall participate in the electronic mail ballot program. A county with a population of less than 100,000 may participate in the program only if:

(1) the early voting clerk of the county makes a request to the secretary of state to participate; and

(2) the secretary of state approves the request.

(c) The early voting clerk in a county participating in the program shall send balloting materials to an electronic mail address in a form and manner prescribed by the secretary of state if the voter:

(1) is an FPCA registrant and is eligible for early voting by mail under Sections 101.001(1) and (2)(A);

(2) provides a current address that is located outside the United States;

(3) provides an electronic mail address that contains the voter's name and the suffix ".mil" or provides an electronic copy of a letter from the commanding officer of the member of the armed forces that indicates that the voter is a spouse or dependent of the member and is residing overseas; and

(4) requests that balloting materials be sent by electronic mail.

(d) Balloting materials sent to an electronic mail address under Subsection (c) shall include a signature sheet for the voter.

(e) If the early voting clerk provides a ballot to a voter at an electronic mail address under Subsection (c), the clerk must provide ballots to all voters who qualify under that subsection.

(f) If the early voting clerk provides a ballot to a voter at an electronic mail address under Subsection (c), the clerk shall amend the voter's federal postcard application for future elections with the voter's current address.

(g) A ballot sent to an electronic mail address under Subsection (c) must be returned with the signature sheet by the method provided by:

(1) Section 101.008; or

(2) Section 105.001, regardless of whether the voter would qualify under that section.

(h) An electronic mail address provided under this section is confidential and does not constitute public information for purposes of Chapter 552, Government Code. The early voting clerk shall ensure that an electronic mail address provided under this section is excluded from disclosure.

(i) If a voter returns both a voted ballot mailed to the voter under Section 101.007(a) and a voted ballot provided electronically to the voter under this section, only the ballot that was provided electronically may be counted. A ballot returned under this chapter shall be processed in the same manner as any other ballot voted by mail as provided by Chapter 87.

(j) All other provisions of this code that would normally apply to a ballot voted under this chapter apply to a ballot voted under this section, including the deadline provided by Section 86.007 and electronic transmission of a ballot under Section 105.001.

(k) The secretary of state may adopt rules as necessary to implement this section.

(l) Nothing in this section may be construed to impose liability with respect to the electronic mail ballot program created under this section on:

(1) an Internet service provider;

(2) an interactive computer service, as defined by 47 U.S.C. Section 230;

(3) a telecommunications service, as defined by 47 U.S.C. Section 153; or

(4) a cable operator, as defined by 47 U.S.C. Section 522.

SECTION 2. This Act takes effect September 1, 2009.

* * * *

This is a very clever move. The most likely result is that Straus will uphold a Democratic point of order that the amendment is not germane. But this result provides Republicans with an opportunity to appeal the ruling of the chair. This would force conservative Democrats (and perhaps some sympathetic Republicans) who aren't eager to vote on the issue to go on the record. This is a no-lose proposition for Republicans; at the very least they will get a record vote on the appeal. If the appeal loses, so what? They still have a shot at passing the Senate bill, which is awaiting action in the Elections committee. And they will have put the heat on Straus and the WD-40s.

Maybe Calendars should not have been so eager to send this bill to the floor. Straus and his allies are not going to be successful this session if they can't see a couple of moves ahead. The Republicans are going to play pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey on any election bill this session.

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