Barack Obama once had some sage advice that Texas Democrats could stand to hear just now: “Win an election.”
Instead, Texas Democrats are — not for the first time — holding democracy hostage under the pretext of saving it. More than half of the state’s Democratic legislators have fled to Washington to prevent the Texas Legislature from making quorum and, thus, stop it functioning. Democrats don’t have the votes to get what they want, so they are seeing to it that there will be no votes at all, running out the clock on the current special session.
In Austin, the state House is considering an election-reform bill that already has been passed by the state Senate. The bill would impose such purportedly radical measures as ending drive-through voting and prohibiting municipal officials from sending mail-in ballot applications to people who are not eligible to vote by mail.
More to the point, it would gently tap the brakes on the practice of “ballot harvesting” by requiring that mail-in voters provide their driver’s-license number or the number from another state-issued ID card, or, if they cannot manage that, the last four digits of their Social Security numbers. And if they still cannot manage that, they can include a declaration that they don’t have one of those. The idea is to make it more difficult for paid party operatives to exploit people in retirement homes and mental-health facilities by managing their votes.
This is not a theoretical concern: In Mexia, Texas, a social worker has been charged with 134 felony counts of fraud involving the votes of residents in a state facility who were, according to prosecutors, “totally mentally incapacitated.”
Democrats insist that limiting such ballot harvesting is the “new Jim Crow.” Under Jim Crow, adult African Americans who would have been eligible to vote were kept from the polls through administrative maneuvering, intimidation and violence. Apparently, President Joe Biden and other leading Democrats expect us to believe that the situation of African Americans in the 1890s is roughly comparable to that of catatonic dementia patients today. Of course, no one really believes that: Democrats are simply using African Americans as human shields to defend corrupt election practices.
It is worth noting that the reforms would also prevent vote-harvesting by Republican political machines in Republican-run Texas. And yet it is only Democrats who are out of sorts about it. Interesting, no?
This is not the first time Texas Democrats have pulled something like this. In 2003, Democratic legislators fled to Oklahoma in an attempt to stop the legislature from carrying out regular congressional redistricting — the first time in modern history that was to be done by a Republican-majority legislature in Texas.
After 130 years of implementing the most ruthless and at times ridiculous gerrymandering you could imagine, Texas Democrats had the audacity to complain that Republicans were drawing up the districts with an eye on politics. Amusingly, they complained that their old-fashioned gerrymandering was fine, but that the Republicans had become too good at it, using sophisticated software to fine-tune districts. They were enraged that Republicans were beating them at their own game.
The state House is among the most democratic of all government organs — especially in Texas, where the biennial legislative schedule and $600-a-month legislative salary keep representatives close to the people. And, sometimes, democracy will give you results you don’t like. It is bizarre to watch Washington Democrats denounce the filibuster even as they praise Texas Democrats for what amounts to a categorical filibuster on all legislative action, exploiting a point of parliamentary procedure to keep the people’s elected representatives from doing their work.
Don’t like the reform bill? Take Barack Obama’s advice and win an election.
Kevin D. Williamson is the author of “Big White Ghetto: Dead Broke, Stone-Cold Stupid, and High on Rage in the Dank Woolly Wilds of the ‘Real America’.”