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The State of Texas: March 10, 2016

Voter ID law getting new appeal hearing; Texans pick up Brock Osweiler; and a big, crappy lawsuit out of Dallas.

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Anthem Thursday

If you watched the Democrat debate last night, you may have recognized the boy who sang the national anthem. It was none other than San Antonio mariachi singer Sebastien de la Cruz, who’s appeared on America’s Got Talent and is no stranger to star-spangled controversies.


Daily Roundup

Full-Court Press — Texas really wants its completely unnecessary voter ID law to work. The 2011 law was unanimously struck down by a three-judge panel last year, but the state has appealed and now a literal room full of judges will hear the case. “The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Wednesday that the entire court will hear Veasey vs. Abbott in an en banc hearing, which is a hearing before the full circuit court panel. There are 22 judges serving the 5th Circuit Court, with two vacancies,” writes the Dallas Morning News. As the Texas Tribune notes, “The case centers on whether the Texas Legislature intentionally discriminated against Hispanic and African-American voters when it passed Senate Bill 14 in 2011, requiring most citizens to show one of a handful of forms of allowable photo identification before their election ballots can be counted.” How will the case play out this time? The Austin American-Statesman points to the fact that the “New Orleans-based appellate court is packed with more appointees by Republican presidents than Democratic ones, prompting Richard Hasen, an election law expert, to call the order potentially troubling to opponents of the law.” A date has not been set for the hearing, and “with so much at stake with the law, an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is likely by whichever side loses at the 5th Circuit.”

Rattled — The fight over the Texas tradition of hunting snakes continues to slither into the twenty-first century, now with a petition to have the practice of “gassing” banned. “The petition, filed [with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department] by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Texas Snake Initiative, and several Texas residents, says the practice of spraying gas and other chemicals into countryside crevices to force snakes out of their lairs harms habitats and other wildlife, including federally endangered species that inhabit holes and crevices along with rattlesnakes,” writes the Austin American-Statesman. The petition “requires a formal response from the state within a couple of months,” not that that means a whole heck of a lot. The poor politicians and government leaders are having a real time trying to balance the traditions (and cash flow) of small-town folks with concerns for wildlife safety. Back in January, a “working group” tasked with assessing the issue and coming up with a recommendation couldn’t do much of either; it seems that they just hope the issue kinda goes away and/or they slither under a rock to hide.

Wizard of Os — Welcome to Texas, Brock Osweiler! Please don’t suck. In football news heard ’round the sports bar, the Denver Broncos quarterback has agreed to a four-year, $72 million contract with the Houston Texans. For the team, it’s more than simply getting what hopefully turns out to be a good arm. “Now the Texans won’t need to use their first-round pick on a quarterbacks,” writes the Houston Chronicle. “They won’t have to trade picks to move up in the first round. They have more flexibility to fill other needs like in the offensive line, wide receiver, defensive end, safety and tight end.” The news of the deal hasn’t been met with all-out acclaim. The headline from one USA Today columnist is “Houston gave Brock Osweiler $72 million and no one has any idea if he’s good,” pointing to the fact that the 25-year-old has started in, like, seven games total. The Chronicle’s Jerome Solomon, too, is suspicious, telling his reader-fans not to get too excited just yet. So, um, no pressure there, Brock!

Crappy Lawsuit — It’s the kind of news item that just begs to be mocked and punned. The Dallas-based company responsible for the ridiculous commercials about hiding the smell of your poop (it is a real thing, folks), is suing a similar company for its marketing approach. “In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in a U.S. District Court in Dallas, Scentsible claims that Reckitt Benckiser LLC is ‘using confusingly similar trademarks’ to Poo-Pourri,” according to the Dallas Morning News. The suit states that the “defendant slavishly copied Poo-Pourri’s copyrighted advertising materials, including its famous ‘Girls Don’t Poop’ video, which was released in 2013, and has now been viewed over 36 million times on YouTube.” Fun little nuggets are dropped throughout the suit, with Poo-Pourri saying it’s “the leader in the market, with V.I.Poo ‘a distant number two.'” If you absolutely must know more about the Dallas company, the D Magazine‘s legendary Michael J. Mooney wrote a 2014 feature story on Poo-Poourri’s grand poobah, Suzy Batiz.

Clickity Bits

Seems Legit: Teacher was “Being Silly” with Taped Mouths

Texas Brand of Justice for Whoever Stole from These Girl Scouts

Inside Jordan Spieth

The Great Taco War Continues with Another Skirmish

Ex-Priest John Feit Extradited to Texas

Coy Wesbrook, Convicted of Multi-Person Killing Spree Executed

Did we miss something? Got a hot tip? Email us at [email protected]. Or tweet @TexasMonthly and @ThatWinkler.


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  • Prescott

    I am sure it has been brought up before, but do minorities feel intimidated when they need to buy alcohol and cigarettes? They need a photo ID for both. How about getting on an airplane? Or driving a car? I am not speaking from a liberal or conservative standpoint. I just want to know? What it different about showing a photo ID every two years in order to vote, that is somehow not a point every time someone wants to buy a pack of smokes?

    • biff

      All of those things you listed are a privilege, not a right. Voting is a right, and this isn’t the first attempt at disenfranchising voters. There is a prior history, for example poll taxes or competency tests.

      • Prescott

        I keep hearing that this “dis-enfranchizes” voters. Why is that? And if it was that, it is certainly not a “first attempt.” Have you ever heard of the poll tax? The Constitution was actually “amended” to get rid of that, though the Constitution never called for it in the first place. You want to talk about dis-enfranchizing voters, we could talk about the “poll watchers” in the South in the fifties and sixties, or the “bosses” in Illinois in the 1960 election that helped steal Illinois for Kennedy in a close race, or the New Black Panther party that stood outside voting stations in the last couple of elections. All of those are wrong. Showing a photo ID should intimidate no one, except maybe a minor trying to get a pack of smokes or slip into an R-rated movie.

        • biff

          I said it wasn’t the first attempt, and I even mentioned the poll tax.

          It isn’t just having to show an ID. Its the process behind obtaining an ID. Texas cities have abysmal public transportation, and the working poor can not afford to take time off to get an ID. It is even worse for people in rural areas, where there is no public transportation.

          If this were really about preventing voter fraud, you could use a birth certificate as ID. The fact that you can use a concealed carry ID shows that it is aimed against those scary minorities, since a minority with a gun is the most frightening thing a Republican can imagine.

          • Prescott

            This is where the argument always fails. Kids get out of high school to go get their drivers’ licenses; I know because I have been a high school teacher, and that is considered an “excused” absence. Having had four children, I know how hard it is to get those licenses, but they do it because they want to drive. And they have it by the time they are 18 and eligible to vote.

            Have you seen the concealed carry ID? It looks like a driver’s license, but it is twice as hard to get. It is much easier to just present your driver’s license, which you must have, because you drove to the polls. And you used it yesterday to buy the wine your wife asked you to pick up on the way home from work.

            I have worked in a polling place, and have translated for Hispanic men who didn’t know enough English to understand the ballots, even though they were printed in Spanish as well as English. Sadly, some of them couldn’t read their own language. I have helped them vote, and it didn’t matter to me how they voted. That was their prerogative.

            And they all had ID’s. The only people that the ID law keeps from voting are those who know who’s not coming, who has died, or who they have told not to show up so they can send someone to vote in their place. It used to happen a whole lot more because you didn’t need a valid ID.

            I still don’t see how you can say, “The working poor cannot afford to take time off to get an ID.” They HAVE ID’s. They use them every day. They buy things that require an ID. You do know, don’t you, that you can now be 80 years old, and are still required to show an ID to purchase alcohol or tobacco. The poor working class has to show an ID every day. They have to show it to cash a check at Walmart. They have to show it to get on a bus, train, or plane.

            Your argument presupposes that there are those who simply cannot get an ID. These poor people have a lot more problem than just not voting. It would mean that they cannot make a purchase, travel anywhere, or get a job.

            And birth certificates? Really? do we want to go there? Some of you throw a fit every time someone asks for one. And unfortunately, if one is accompanied by a photo ID, it is usually sadly out of date.

    • José

      Some folks might argue that the ability to vote is not just an important right but is perhaps one of the most essential protections of all our freedoms. A pack of Camels and a six of Bud Light are no comparison. Agreed?

      But that aside, what’s really grating is that these laws are so clearly designed not to protect rights but instead to suppress them. Maybe I would feel differently if there were millions of fraudulent votes cast every cycle and that the law would stop all of them at a cost of keeping just a few valid voters away. But it’s sort of the opposite, isn’t it?

      Here’s a thought. If you want to implement more secure voting credentials then make the state bear the cost and trouble instead making fall on a carefully targeted group of citizens. Everyone gets an official ID from the government, paid by the government, and researched primarily by the government. Until the state does due diligence then we keep the old system of keeping voter fraud down by making it illegal. Since there are so few actual offenses they should be easy to prosecute.

      • Prescott

        You can get a driver’s license. If you don’t want a driver’s license, at least in Texas, the DPS can give you an ID card that is just like a DL, without driving privileges. But let’s be honest. Nearly everyone has a driver’s license. This straw argument assumes that, somehow, only “privileged,” upper-economic class citizens are going to have the wherewithall to obtain a photo ID. I just don’t see what all the rage is about. If you have a driver’s license, even the KKK cannot stop you from voting. And if you drove to the polls, I’ll bet you have that license in your pocket. And if you bought liquor or cigarettes, or flew in a plane, or cashed a check at the local check-cashing outlet or at Walmart, you have that same license on you now. You can vote. No one is trying to intimidate or disenfranchize you.

        The only thing a valid photo ID does is keep people from voting in multiple districts or polling places, voting on behalf of invalid voters or “no-shows,” or rising from the dead and voting, as has happened for many years, and everyone knows it.

        If there had been valid Voter ID laws in 1948, Coke Stevenson, not LBJ, would have been our Democratic US senator from Texas.

    • Prescott

      Come off it, guys. I read your posts, and you are intelligent people. This is not about “rights.” It’s about intimidation. What is more intimidating than having to show “proof” of anything? You need an ID for all the things I listed, plus voting in an union election, getting a welfare grant, or traveling on Amtrak. You need one for opening a bank account, and if you want to buy a car, you not only need that ID, but proof of insurance (in my state).

      The bottom line is, perceived “right” or “privilege,” we go to our pockets every day to prove we are who we say we are. Are you trying to tell me that minorities are “offended” by having to do this every two years, but nothing else bothers them at all. Are you telling me that it is much, much harder to bring an ID to a polling place than it is to bring one to a convenience store?

      Attend the Republican or Democratic convention this year. Try to get on the floor of either one without a valid photo ID. I would think that the more progressive people in both parties would fight this attack on privacy and civil rights.

      It is a lame argument to suppose that photo ID at a polling place is somehow a racist or oppressive thing, but everywhere else, it is expected. Are you telling me that minorities don’t fly, write checks, or buy alcohol? I’m sure they do, and that same little card that got them the privilege will work at any polling place in the country.

      • José

        So are you suggesting that, contrary to the body of evidence, Voter ID laws do not have the effect of reducing participation by minorities and young people? And are you also suggesting that in any case this effect is unintended?

        That’s either stupid or dishonest. I think we’re done here.

        • Prescott

          I keep hearing the stories of minorities running, screaming, from polling places because someone had the audacity to ask for a photo ID. Young people; really? As someone who has served many sessions working in our local polling places, not only helping people understand directions for voting, but also as a Spanish-language translator for those who needed help reading instructions, I can tell you that I have NEVER seen anyone intimidated by a photo ID. And as far as young people, they are PROUD to have that ID that shows that they are adults, complete with voting privileges. Your problem is listening to white liberals who see Hitler under every rock.

          In the 2014 elections, I remember helping two men vote. One was an old white man who was very vocal about voting a straight Republican ticket. I explained to him that there were boxes at the top of each column so he could vote a straight Republican, Democratic, or Libertarian ticket. He said, “I don’t care about that stuff. I just want to make sure I vote for Republicans.” I told him that I was NOT going to help him vote Republican; I was only going to help him vote.

          Later in the day, a Hispanic man went through the line. He had another Hispanic man with him who wanted to enter the booth with him and “help him vote,” which I am sure you know is illegal. I had to explain to the second man, in Spanish, that I could help him with whatever instructions he needed. It was only after that, that I was able to give the second man a ballot and stand beside the booth. He told me in Spanish that he wanted to vote for “only Democrats.” I gave him the same instructions in Spanish, that I had given the white man. He also said, “I just want to know how to vote Democratic.” I told him the same thing, that I could not help him vote Democratic; only help him vote. He finally got the message, and checked the top box on “Democratic,” then asked me what to do. He thought he might have to sign the ballot. Already feeling a little tainted for having seen how he had voted, I told him all that he had to do was put the ballot in the electric counting machine by the door.

          Both men were troubled about some issues. But neither of them had a problem with showing ID. In fact, they both seemed proud of the authority that ID card represented: “I am who I am, and I am going to vote as I darn please.”

          • José

            Please, no Hitler references. No assertions or implications that I said anything other than what I said. It’s rude.

            Your logic seems to be that if someone has overcome difficulties in getting an ID for voting then anyone can and should. I’m happy that you help people. Yay, you. I’m happy that these good people succeeded. But that’s not the point here. It’s about the people who do NOT vote because of various barriers that are intentionally put in their paths to discourage them. So let’s talk about the problem, not the non-problem.

            You cite these heartwarming stories of success but ignore the ones of citizens who have to expend an unusual amount of effort in order to register to vote. Those stories do exist as well. You point out that most people have government issued IDs, and you’re right. But you ridicule and otherwise ignore the folks who don’t.

            Look, there are two basic facts that some folks seem to want to downplay or ignore.
            1. Voter ID laws do have have an effect of discouraging citizens from exercising their right to vote, and groups that tend to vote “liberal” (e.g. minorities and youth) are disproportionately affected.
            2. There is little reason to believe that voter fraud is rampant and that it will be prevented by Voter ID laws.

            The voting process has changed a great deal in the last 68 years. If someone steals an election now it won’t be because of people showing up with fake or missing ID cards.

          • Prescott

            Actually, I am with you that it should not be hard to register to vote. There should never be any intimidation of anyone who is coming to vote. The voting booth is a sacred place, and a private place. Every citizen should be given access to that sacred place.

            My only disagreement with you is that a photo ID somehow robs people of that access. And the idea that there are thousands — millions — of people who stay away because they fear having to show valid ID is an invention of some people. It is not there.

            When I was a teacher, and took tests to advance my certification or comply with competency tests, they required a photo ID. Now they even require fingerprints. Why? Because some people try to sneak in a “double” to take the test, or cheat in another way.

            The only reason for a photo ID is to keep someone from proxy voting, from voting in place of someone who did not show up, who is sick, apathetic, or in the cemetery. It is to keep people from voting more than once.

            Photo ID’s do not cheapen our voting privilege. They preserve it and dignify it. And as I tried to note, they give everyone equal access at the polls. After all, what good is my one vote when somebody else gets ten?

            And I do apologize for even bringing Hitler up. I hate it when liberals or conservatives throw that at the other side, and so I shouldn’t do it, either.

        • Prescott

          “I think we’re done here.” Translation. “I didn’t know someone was going to invade this tirade with facts. I am out-gunned. I will find someone who doesn’t know what they are talking about.”

          Enjoy the ignorance, and keep believing everything they tell you.

        • Prescott

          I have helped minorities and young people vote. I have been there and seen how it is done, and how they feel. You listen to news shows.

  • José

    If Photo ID was good enough for the Founders who wrote the Constitution then it ought to be good enough for the rest of us!

    • Prescott

      Actually, the Founders thought that the states, not individuals, should elect the president and the senators. They felt that the states could determine how to let voters select their congressional representatives and own state legislators. They never imagined that the presidency would ever become a matter of direct popular election. They knew that, if it devolved into a popularity contest that favored the richest, dirtiest, most unethical people of all, who are the only ones that could survive a system of endless primaries and political conventions, our nation might end up with sub-standard choices like, oh, I don’t know, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. They did not want that to happen. They respected the new nation too much.

      • José

        You’re evading the matter altogether. At some point in the process a person goes to the polls and casts a ballot. At least that’s the way I was taught that our democratic republic worked.

        • Prescott

          Yes. Each person gets one vote. That vote is so special, that no one else should steal it, or misrepresent it. It is so special that it should be protected. An ID is part of what ensures that.