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Unhappy Ending

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My optimism that Phil King and Rafael Anchia could work out something on the Voter Registration bill proved to be unfounded. They could not come to an agreement. When King presented his bill, Anchia responded with an amendment to strike the enacting clause. This is a seldom-used tactic that, if successful, cuts off all other amendments. The last time that I can recall it being employed was by Mike Villarreal in 2005 to kill the proposed appraisal tax constitutional amendment. Anchia wasn’t successful.

I think King was sincere in his effort to reach a compromise, almost to the end. The Democrats offered a compromise that they would have supported:

* The voter’s affirmation of citizenship on the registration card would create a rebuttable presumption that the voter is indeed a citizen;

* The Secretary of State would create a database to check citizenship, using a program known TEAM (Texas Election Administration Management) that w0uld harmonize the last four digits of the applicant’s social security number and driver’s license.

* If the Secretary of State could not verify the place of birth or naturalization, the registrant is still deemed eligible to vote if he were to attest to his citizenship under oath;

* From this last group of voters, the Secretary of State could investigate these remaining cases.

Anchia gave this proposal to King in advance of the bill coming up for debate. Unaccountably, King never responded to the Ds offer. Instead, he ran with his own amendment. I guess it couldn’t be called a compromise, since there were no negotiations, but it was a substantial improvement over the original bill. It grandfathers all currently registered voters and directs the Secretary of State to verify new registrants. Those whose citizenship cannot be verified will be sent a letter telling them they have thirty days to produce documentation for the scrutiny of local voting officials. Anchia believes that only a small fraction of those who receive the letter will jump through this particular hoop. Even so, the most onerous feature of the original bill–putting the burden on the voter to produce a birth certificate or passport or citizenship papers–is gone.

Once the King amendment was adopted, the Democrats ran with a series of silly, dilatory amendments, a sort of procedural temper tantrum that cheapened Anchia’s eloquent presentation. His major achievement was to establish that the likelihood of disenfranchisement under the King proposal is huge–not due to malice, but due to deficiencies in the computer program and the data bases. Woe to anyone who was born out of state; there is no arrangement for reciprocity between states.

I will say this: If this had high school, and I had been judging the debate, I would have awarded the victory to Anchia. By (a) arguing that thousands of noncitizens are voting illegally, and (b) grandfathering all currently registered voters, it (c) follows that King is allowing
noncitizens to vote. In the real world, of course, King prevailed.

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