The script is written. For the next month or so, liberals will shout from the rooftops that any election reform bill put forth by conservatives in the upcoming special session is “the new Jim Crow.” They’ll say the majority is out to disenfranchise Blacks and other minorities, that “white rage” is behind the efforts.
Then, the party that is pushing so hard to abolish the filibuster will resort to an illegitimate tool to get its way; legislators in the minority are already planning their walkout to break quorum, robbing the majority party of its ability to get things done.
And the media will largely echo their rhetoric, without asking any questions. It did so in the regular session; the Houston Chronicle demonstrated this when it dismissed all election reforms as racism.
“For ruling conservatives in this state — first white Democrats, now white Republicans — ‘voter fraud’ is the trusty password that unlocks an arsenal of underhanded, often unconstitutional, tricks to retain political power and keep it out of the hands of those deemed undeserving of a voice and unqualified for a role in governing,” its editorial board wrote. “Namely, Black and brown folks.”
The truth is that voter fraud exists; whether or not it is “widespread” doesn’t matter one bit. Every illegal vote robs the voice of a legitimate Texas voter.
Polls show that Texas voters strongly support voter ID, even for mail-in ballots. Nearly 90% of Texans say voters should have to show identification to vote. More than 80% believe in-person and mail-in ballots should have the same protections. Roughly the same number say mail-in ballots should include the voter’s drivers license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number. And 89% of Texans say we should audit our voter lists regularly to ensure they only include eligible voters.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that requiring voter ID is not overly burdensome; in 2008, Justice John Paul Stevens added, there’s “no question about the legitimacy or importance of the state’s interest in counting only the votes of eligible voters.”
Presumably, any new law offered by Republicans in the special session will do two things. First, it will rein in the making-it-up-as-we-go abuses of Harris County during the pandemic, when established voting rules were thrown out the window. And second, it will add voter ID requirements for mail-in ballots.
The case for the first part of that is clear. The U.S. Constitution says that state legislatures—not county elections officials—establish the “time, place and manner” of elections. It’s that simple. Only the Legislature can allow 24-hour polling places, drive-through voting and unsecured “drop boxes” for mail-in ballots. If Democrats want those things, they can offer legislation, and try to convince their Republican counterparts that Texans want these.
The case for voter ID for mail-in ballots is also very clear. Other states already require it, and it’s a way to cut down on illegal ballot harvesting and voter fraud.
As for the planned walkout, liberals have a point—our system of government is designed to prevent what our Founders called “the tyranny of the majority.” Thomas Jefferson warned, “an elective despotism was not the government we fought for.”
And that’s why the U.S. Senate has the filibuster in place; it’s a way to ensure that the majority party doesn’t steamroll the minority party.
Yet liberals—who now claim that minority rights are about to be steamrolled by the Texas Legislature—are working overtime to end the filibuster. They’re now decrying a “tyranny of the minority,” and demand that everyone submit to the majority opinion—or else.
Even as they demand the death of the filibuster in Washington, Texas liberals will employ a very different tactic—simply walking out—to impede the majority on election reform. The difference here is important; we have tools in place to ensure that rights aren’t trampled by overzealous majorities. But walking out of the Capitol because you’re about to lose on an issue isn’t one of them. As President Obama famously said, “elections have consequences.”
The script that liberals will follow over the next few weeks has been carefully crafted to mislead Texas on these two points. They’ll contend that election reform is racist voter suppression, and that walking out is a legitimate tool for getting their way. Texans know better.