Greg Abbott Willfully Misrepresents How Law Works

Photo by Gage Skidmore used under creative commons license.

Photo by Gage Skidmore used unaltered under creative commons license.

Gov. Abbott is all a-twitter, claiming that he can finally prove why we need a voter ID law:

Your first thought might have been mine—interesting that the story source is a reputable publication, US News & World Report. Their logo looks like this:

us news world report

In fact, when you look closely, the source is not the well-known national periodical, but an online newsletter and blog, described:

US World Report provides information on current US news and world events. We aim to share stories that are not covered by traditional media.

The blog’s About Us page contains no information or names of publishers, editors, or the like, but does provide basic guidelines for people who’d like to submit stories, like the suggestion that being able to cite sources for stories is useful and more likely to get those stories published. Their logo, by the way:

US World Report

The Dallas/Fort Worth NBC affiliate cited in the US World Report blog post outlines the story:

  • A Grand Prairie woman was arrested and held on bond under charges of illegal voting in Dallas County.
  • Married to a citizen and in the country legally, she first attempted to register to vote but checked the box on the application indicating that she was not a citizen. When she was turned down, she submitted a new registration, this time, indicating she was a citizen.
  • She voted five times: first, in the 2004 Republican primary, and the final time, in the 2014 Republican primary runoff.

The conclusion that the blogger draws from this story, and that Gov. Abbott appears to draw from it and gleefully present to anyone following his Twitter feed? That voter ID would have prevented this woman from voting.

Here’s why that is not true. The Texas voter ID law would not have prevented this woman from voting.

In Texas, someone who is not a U.S. citizen but who resides in the country lawfully can apply for and receive a Texas Driver’s License, which is one of the seven forms of ID that are acceptable as proof of identity under the current voter ID statute.

The key phrase in that last sentence is as proof of identity. Here’s how the state outlines how that ID card will be used when presented at the polls:

When a voter arrives at a polling location, the voter will be asked to present one of the seven (7) acceptable forms of photo ID. Election officials will now be required by State law to determine whether the voter’s name on the identification provided matches the name on the official list of registered voters (“OLRV”). After a voter presents their ID, the election worker will compare it to the OLRV. If the name on the ID matches the name on the list of registered voters, the voter will follow the regular procedures for voting.

The error in this instance was that Dallas County allowed the non-citizen to appear on the official list of registered voters. The only reason that the election official looks at the ID presented is “to determine whether the voter’s name on the identification provided matches the voter’s name on the official list of registered voters.”

In other words, the election officials are not given the power, by the voter ID law or by any other law, to rule on whether or not the person presenting ID or showing up on the OLRV is a citizen or not.

Gov. Greg Abbott’s tweet, then, saying that this case proves why we need voter ID, makes no sense. Either he does not understand how either the voter registration process or the voter ID law work, which seems unlikely, or he is happy to intentionally and publicly misrepresent how the voter ID law functions, which seems like something no governor or elected official or member of the state bar should do.

This situation might prove that county tax assessor-collectors need to do a better job checking documentation, or might need access to better or more current databases to confirm that someone who claims to be a citizen is a citizen. What this situation does not prove is that if the voter ID law had been in effect in 2004, it would have stopped this woman from voting. It would not have stopped her from voting.

Recall that the anonymous About Us page on the US World Report blog strongly suggests that authors—and the author of this blog post is someone helpfully identified as Robert, no last name—cite other sources?

It did not make it clear, however, that in citing those sources, authors should actually read and understand them. Our intrepid reporter, Robert, diligently cited the capitol’s paper of record:

According to the Washington Post, non-citizens like Maria Ortega, who participated illegally in the election process, could have created enough of a presence to influence the election of Barack Obama’s in the first place.

Diligently cited it, but disregarded what the article actually said.

Following Robert’s link to the Washington Post, we discover analysis of how it might be possible, if non-citizens were proven to be voting in large enough numbers, that they might swing a very close race.

The article also contains a paragraph that spells out, bigger than Dallas, that:

We also find that one of the favorite policies advocated by conservatives to prevent voter fraud appears strikingly ineffective. Nearly three quarters of the non-citizens who indicated they were asked to provide photo identification at the polls claimed to have subsequently voted.

The article goes, for several paragraphs, to list a variety of limitations and caveats about the data and conclusions drawn from it that fuel the conjecture in the article.

I’m growing increasingly frustrated with Governor Abbott’s enthusiasm for spreading misinformation, which could also be called lies, about how Texas laws work. Where’s that personal responsibility and integrity he likes to talk about?

By the way, if you’re curious about Robert, the author of this blog post, I swiped his photo from the blog:

robert blog author

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