Are you alive? Are you sure you’re alive? Not if you are one of 72,000 Texans officially declared taking a dirt nap, bought the farm, expired, dead as a strip club in Waco. But this is just one of many problems Texans are having right now in trying to vote. Bring back the poll tax or the whites-only rule. (In 1927, Texas passed a law allowing each party’s state executive committee to determine who could vote in its primaries.) At least they were honest blockades between voters and the ballot box.
Let’s start with our members of Congress. A federal court has thrown out the transparent gerrymandering of Texas’ Congressional districts. You remember Tom DeLay’s successful attempts – until now – to re-draw our districts so that Dems would be defeated and GOPers would win. That plan formed districts running from Austin to Houston, from Dalhart to Fort Worth. Travis County is in three different Congressional districts. (The new plan would divide that county into four districts.) We also got four new Congressional seats. Anyway, that federal court’s ruling overturned a lower court’s affirmation of the appeal of the, uh, wait. I’m lost. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott lost, too. Who should we vote against? But the next time you write your member of Congress, copy the others.
Then we have our voter ID law. This fight tied up our state lawmakers forever, but we finally got one and, you guessed it, a panel of federal judges has thrown out the law as discriminatory. One problem was Abbott had a hard time finding one single case of voter ID fraud in Texas. And our new ID law wouldn’t touch voting by mail, unless we include our birth certificate, driver’s license and DNA sample. No wonder Abbott lost, again.
Then we have the aforementioned 72,800 dead voters. Last session the Texas Legislature passed a law unanimously – what? Unanimously? They couldn’t agree that Tuesday follows Monday — to clean the voting lists of dead people. So the Secretary of State sent officials of all 254 counties names supplied by the Social Security Administration’s master death file. The county officials, in turn, mailed notices to these dead men walking saying that their names would be taken off the voting lists unless they became alive within 30 days. They were legally moribund until they could prove themselves alert. Motto: “Be alert – Texas needs more lerts.”
Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector and Voter Registrar Don Sumners alone sent out 9,018 death notices and received hundreds of testy replies from voters who considered themselves rather alive. Sumners then announced that he wouldn’t implement the purge law until after the election. The Secretary of State’s office fired back that Sumners was violating state law and warned ominously of withholding state funds. After a confusing exchange of insults, the list was whittled down. As Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said, “This is just a mess.”
Even so, it looks like thousands of us are no longer living. I suppose we can show up on election day, put a mirror under our nose and breathe. If the mirror doesn’t fog up, we’re a fraud. Maybe bring a note from our doctor. I’ve got it: we bring a boom box, turn on the Irish Riverdance and jig our way to the booth. Go as GE or Viacom. After all, corporations are people, too, my friend.
All these needless complications are costing us time and money. How much? The AP has looked into the AG’s books – having to file a Freedom of Information Act to determine how much of our money our government is spending on what, which I find outrageous. Here’s what AP found: The Texas attorney general’s office has filed 24 lawsuits against the federal government since President Obama took office — litigation that has cost the state $2.58 million and more than 14,113 hours spent by staff and state lawyers working those cases. That figure includes $1.5 million-plus in salaries for state employees, nearly $250,000 in court costs and the travel expenses of attorney general’s office personnel, and roughly $1 million for outside counsel and expert witnesses. Many of these cases were lost, so we can only hope we win on appeal, which costs even more.
According to the AP, Abbott took office in 2002 and sued the federal government three times between 2004 and 2007 while fellow Republican George W. Bush was president. But under Democratic President Obama, Abbott has sued two dozen times since 2010. Sixteen lawsuits challenged environmental regulations.
So we have hired an army of state lawyers plus outside counsel and expert witnesses. We are attempting to prevent voter fraud only we can’t find any fraudulent voters. Our Congressional district lines are chaotic right before an election. We may or may not have thousands of dead people eligible to vote and not-dead eligible voters who will be turned away. At the same time we have cut billions for our schools, road-building and state troopers. We rank 51st behind every state and Puerto Rico in health services. We have virtually put Planned Parenthood out of business because we already have the nation’s third highest rate of unplanned teen pregnancies and want more knocked-up girls on our welfare rolls. We are the nation’s laughingstock.
Who’s running this state, anyway? Oh, right. Our elected guardians against waste and spending. It’s all a matter of priorities. I, for one, would gladly shell out $2.58 million to lawyers trying to keep some of us from voting and allowing our children to breathe acid air. Besides, for a lousy $2.58 million we could only hire another three or four teachers or perhaps a pollution cop. As for Attorney General Abbott, he wants to run for lite guv or the governorship itself. On what slogan? Maybe, “I’ll put the goober in gubernatorial.” Or: “Ambulance chasers without ambulances — no place but Texas.” “Greg Abbott – Texas’ Attorney Generous.”
I’m not so interested in voter fraud as I am in candidate fraud.
Ashby is alive at firstname.lastname@example.org