Sunday, January 18, 2009

Disenfranchising the Elderly and the Minorities of Texas

For Immediate Release: January 16, 2009

Contacts: Lydia Camarillo SVREP Vice-President - 800--404-VOTE
Patricia Gonzales, WCVI Senior Vice President - 210- 922-3118

SVREP and WCVI Call on the Texas Senate to Reverse 2/3 Rule

Rule Change Made to Allow Partisans to Pass Disenfranchising Voter ID Law San Antonio, Texas - Southwest Voter Registration Education Project (SVREP) and the William C. Velasquez Institute (WCVI) call on the Texas State Senate to reverse the 2/3 rule it passed to move the Voter ID legislation. The Senate, in its first act, voted to deny the minority legislative opinion, a rule suspended only when applied to the voting of the Voter ID legislation. "The Texas State Senate is acting counter to America's principles by adjusting their voting rules," said Antonio Gonzalez, SVREP and WCVI President. "The Senate is changing its rules to blatantly disenfranchise citizens with the discriminatory Voter ID legislation and silencing minority opinions in the legislative process." The Senate majority has made its main focus of this legislature the passage of the Voter ID bill. SVREP, WCVI, and many other national and statewide civil rights organizations, oppose Voter ID laws as they create extra barriers for citizens to participate in elections, and would disproportionately affect minority voters. SVREP and WCVI further oppose the rule change as it creates dangerous precedent for future Senate deliberations. Any Texas State Senate majority could use this example to override the rules on important legislation rather than force Senators to work together, compromise, and form laws that are inclusive of more Texan representatives. "Today's action by the Texas State Senate is a mockery to democracy", said SVREP Vice President Lydia Camarillo. "The Senate sent a message to Texas and the nation that it planned to play dirty-partisan politics by voting to suspend the 2/3 rule to promote the Voter ID legislation, which dilutes the voting rights of Latino and other communities of color. SVREP calls on the Senate to reverse the rule and work towards representing all Texas citizens." SVREP is a national, nonpartisan organization committed solely to the political empowerment of Latino communities. SVREP was established in 1974 by the late Willie Velásquez to encourage civic and political participation in Latino and other underrepresented communities. Since its inception, over 2.3 million Latino voters throughout the southwest and Florida have been registered. The William C. Velásquez Institute (WCVI) is a tax-exempt, non-profit, non-partisan public policy analysis organization chartered in 1985. The purpose of WCVI is to: conduct research aimed at improving the level of political and economic participation in Latino and other underrepresented communities; To provide information to Latino leaders relevant to the needs of their constituents; To inform the Latino leadership and public about the impact of public policies on Latinos; To inform the Latino leadership and public about political opinions and behavior of Latinos.

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William C. Velasquez Institute



Garcia: State senators should tackle the real problems facing Texas


Sunday, January 18, 2009
Now that the Texas Senate has shown strength and resolve in fixing a nonexistent problem, let's see how they handle real ones.

On Wednesday, Texas senators, led — in the loosest sense of the term — by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, spent the second day of the session rearranging the rules to bulldoze through a voter identification bill. The bill died last session only to be resurrected this go-around by the hand of state Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands.

Before we go any further, let's note for the record that voter fraud is a bad thing. That's why existing statutes prohibit it. Let's also note that after spending most of a $1.4 million grant and investing two years at investigating voter fraud in Texas, Attorney General Greg Abbott and his crew came up with a whopping 26 cases of voter irregularity — 18 of them involving ballots legally cast but improperly handled.

Williams declared with all seriousness that voter fraud is a top concern of the state's voters. Maybe it's a top concern with the voters he talks to, but I'd wager that many more are worried about paying for their tickets to the economic horror show now in progress.

Some of the more visionary voters might even worry about how Texas can regain the economic vigor Gov. Rick Perry and other Republican leaders brag about if post-secondary education gets so expensive that working families can't afford it.

Education is a proven escape hatch from poverty or portal between economic classes, so broadening rather than restricting access to learning would seem to be a prudent economic development strategy. Democrats tried to amend the bill to put that concern on the same footing with voter fraud, but the Republican majority wouldn't hear it.

Voters who aren't multi-millionaires might also be concerned about their access to health care. But you only need health care if you're sick, so what's the problem?

The fact that one out of two Texas men will be diagnosed with cancer in his lifetime, according to health experts, takes a back seat to voter identification. The leading cause of death of Texas women between the ages of 35 and 74 is cancer, but that can wait. Cancer is the leading killer of Texas children ages 1 through 14 who die of a disease. But why rush to do something about that when Texas senators have this epidemic of voter fraud to wrestle to the ground?

No doubt that the last words to cross the dying lips of Texans in the final throes of cancer will express gratitude that voter fraud is now history in Texas or soon will be if House members rush to the ramparts to join their Senate colleagues in this epic battle.

According to the Republican majority in the Senate, voter fraud is more important than Texas veterans, Texas health care, higher education tuition costs or even the estimated $9 billion drop in revenue.

Given that, Texas senators may well turn their attention to prostitution — if there's any left after the state's officialdom shut down the famous Chicken Ranch in La Grange back in the 1970s.

The debate on Wednesday reminded me of Larry L. King's "Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," the hit play and move inspired by that episode. When the governor is breathlessly informed that "Texas has a whorehouse in it," he springs into action to correct that stain on the state's honor.

Critics of the voter ID bill note that asking voters to present photo identification at the polling places can be used to intimidate older and minority voters, and that may be true.

But speaking as a voter who has used a driver's license to vote in all of last year's elections — I never got my voter registration card — it wasn't that big a deal. Of course, I'm not easily intimidated.

I question why senators of one of the most important states in the union spent an entire day and stepped all over a history of bipartisanship fixing a roof that the state's Republican attorney general says doesn't leak.

I asked a Republican friend of mine to explain the wisdom of this maneuver. His reply? "There is no wisdom in a stupid act."; 445-3667

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