Thursday, August 11, 2011

Do the King Street Patriots intend to turn away veterans at the polls?

Open Source Dem recently made a presentation to Harris County Democrats about the challenges facing them with regard to the new election law requirements surrounding voter registration, voter ID, and the like. Here's a synopsis.


There is one piece of news and three main messages to bring back from the Secretary of State’s 29th Annual Election Law Seminar in Austin.

The SoS reiterated for voter registrars and election officials that the voter ID requirement, which can be met with a vaguely-defined “military identity card”, does not include the photo ID issued to military veterans by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The VA card is not issued by the US Department of Defense. The Veterans Administration -- now the Department of Veterans’ Affairs -- headed by General Shinseki is now a cabinet-level office, second in number of employees only to the DoD itself.

The VA card is a high-value and high-quality photo ID document linked to medical and military records. It is not a voting credential in its own right, since like any other military identification document, it may be issued to a non-citizen. Still, as a practical matter it is probably a better authentication document than a DPS-issued card. Of course buried in all of this voter ID business is nothing more or less than a constant demand that people who do not look like Republican voters produce arcane documents to prove again and again that they are not just eligible and registered to vote but that they are “qualified” to vote in in the eyes of hostile clerks who suspect, but cannot prove, they are not convicts or wards.

The VA card is reasonably “a United States military identification card that contains the person’s photograph that has not expired or that expired no earlier than 60 days before the date of presentation”, to quote the statute. As with other military identification cards, it does not expire except at death, but can be revoked. That is how much real understanding of authentication matters the legislature or the Governor’s office truly have: none. Revocation, expiration, what’s the difference? A lot!

But what the GOP, the Tea Party, and the King Street Patriots do understand is voter suppression.

Indeed, the VA card is the second most common form of photo ID after the Texas driver’s license (which does expire). The GOP is limiting access to the polls any and every way they can with no pushback from the Democratic echelons or branches of government. Is there a suffrage lobby or movement today? Evidently not.

So what do Texas Democrats really care about? A VA hospital in the Rio Grande valley? Or a statewide voter registration program for homeless veterans? Perhaps a full measure of dignity and recognition for all veterans presenting themselves to vote? Here’s a clue: Democrats will never benefit from the first two unless they can provide the third of these.

The VA is recognized in Texas election law as one of the two federal authorities for exempting a person from the photo ID requirement altogether, although it is inconceivable that an exempt veteran would not have a VA card. Catch 22. How much more military than that can you get?

What is not news is that the voter ID requirement has nothing to do with authenticating voters and all the world to do with levying costly economic and often impassable physical barriers to suffrage: a poll tax, in so much legal verbosity.

It is not clear what if any response the Democratic Party or the Obama administration will have to any of this. So far they have contributed to the legal verbosity and, of course, capitulated to the Secretary of State.


State Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) and Charlie Jones of Texas Democratic Veterans will host a press conference to discuss the Texas Secretary of State’s interpretation of the GOP-backed voter ID bill (SB 14) to bar the VA benefit card as an acceptable form of military ID. The press conference will take place Friday, August 12, 2011, at VFW Post #76, 10 Tenth Street, San Antonio TX.

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