What a letdown. They allowed me to vote. Yesterday when I walked into the firehouse and plunked down my driver's license and voter registration card, I already had my mental dukes up, waiting for them to mess with me. I was hoping for a fight.
In fact that's why I went. I didn't care about anything that was on the ballot in my precinct yesterday. I'm not in the school trustee district where there was a special election, so all I had to vote for was constitutional amendments. I voted against all of them. I'm against amendments.
All this year the consistent narrative for the Texas voter photo I.D. law has been that photo I.D. is a Republican conspiracy to keep Democrats like me from voting. August personages of the political realm, like Dallas Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, have declared that vote fraud is nonexistent in Texas. They say the whole photo I.D. thing is aimed solely at vote suppression.
That's what I wanted them to do. Suppress me. I wanted to be suppressed so I could express my ire. My vote card has "Sr." after my name, and my driver's license does not. The stories on TV gave me the impression that even if there was only the tiniest discrepancy, double-breasted Republicans would come rushing out from behind the fire trucks and beat me with their putters. But all I got was a shrug and a thumb to the stack of ballots.
Before I went out into the rain to vote I did notice in the paper that Texas Secretary of State John Steen had been in town the day before to give a speech about photo I.D. and that powerful Democrats had barred him from appearing on county property. Quite properly. He was probably here just to shake his putter at me.
But the story said he was here to tell people they would all be allowed to vote, easy, and not to believe the hype. I figured that was probably part of the scam somehow. Fool us into a false sense of normalcy. That way people like me who were itching for a fight would be lulled into doing what we normally do in these off-year elections when it's raining -- not vote. He wasn't going to stop me.
On the other hand, I always get a little shiver when somebody like Eddie Bernice Johnson says there's no such thing as vote fraud in Texas. I seem to remember writing a lot of stories myself about vote fraud in Dallas in the past, mostly in the part of town that falls within Congresswoman Johnson's district. I have a very clear memory of people offering to sell entire boxes of signed but un-voted absentee ballots to candidates, of strangely similar signatures on requests for absentee ballots and large numbers of fishy ballots showing up at the county in the wee final hours of closely fought elections.
Laws were passed after all that, however, and most of that kind of fraud would be hard to pull off now. Had the photo I.D. requirements been in effect back then, they would not have touched the kind of fraud I saw, all of which involved mail-in ballots rather than voters showing up at the polls to vote. In that sense, the congresswoman is right in arguing that photo I.D. is a law without a crime. But does that make it a law without any legitimate reason for being?
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The fact is that there was lots of vote fraud in our county a decade ago. I never heard of any of it happening in Republican precincts. I always heard of it in Democratic precincts. If the Republicans got the idea there were some Democrats out there stealing votes, I guess I should plead guilty to helping give them that impression.
So now what? The Republicans have passed a law against stealing Twinkies, and our defense is going to be that we were only stealing Ding-Dongs?
Sanctity of the ballot works two ways, it seems to me. The right to exercise the franchise is sacred, and we ought to do everything we can to enable and encourage people to do it. But if the vote is sacred, then it also seems fair to say it shouldn't be fake. I don't believe there can be fake sacred votes. So is it not also important to do what we can to give everybody a certain comfort level where the legitimacy of the vote is concerned?
Maybe I'm just getting tired of the demonizing that we've all been doing to each other over the last decade. Demons? Really? If nothing else, it's unlikely any of us are really quite that interesting. We've all got our reasons for our reasons. Yesterday I had to show an I.D. in order to vote. Today I still seem to be alive.