The Brief: Texas Political News for Oct. 30, 2013

The Big Conversation

Two contrasting story lines have emerged about the enforcement of Texas' voter ID law during its first widespread use in an election.

The first, which is sure to warm the hearts of the law's backers, is that the new law is proving to be "no big deal." Or, as a headline Tuesday in the Austin American-Statesman put it: "Voter ID rollout smooth." Even as late as Tuesday night, supporters of the law were tweeting the money quote from Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir, who said“It’s not a big deal at all,” and that any issues have been “quickly and easily resolved.”

The supporters of the law, of course, would like to seize on this and stories like it to demonstrate that the fuss made by the groups fighting the law is overblown.

The second story line presents a less benign view, focusing on the frequency with which voters have had to sign affidavits because their names did not exactly match up on documents presented at the polls. Stories so far have focused on the prevalence of voting with an affidavit (one out of seven early voters in Dallas County) and on the political bigshots caught up in the new provision — both Wendy Davis and, surprisingly, Greg Abbott.

 

The affidavit issue so far is proving popular with Democratic groups, which hope to use any resultant hubbub to motivate women to get out and vote. That's because the affidavit requirement could disproportionately affect women, who frequently change names when they get married or divorced.

To illustrate the point, Talking Points Memo spoke with Jessica McIntosh, communications director for the Democratic fundraising group EMILY's List. She said that "women are taking note of the voter ID law and how they create new barriers to voting and 'are going to see through it'" and that "the law is likely to push more women voters in places like Texas and elsewhere to vote for Democrats."

"I mean that's ... historically where women voters are going, and I think it's pretty obvious because of the regressive agenda that Republicans are pushing," McIntosh said.

Selling that argument effectively is doubly important for Democrats, who see capturing the women's vote as key to Davis' chances of winning the Governor's Mansion.

Culled

•    Greg Abbott's Plan for Texas (Burkablog): "The question must be asked: Is Abbott's vision what Texans want for their government — or their families? Is this really a state whose leaders have no interest in improving the lives of its citizens? Is Texas really going the way of Arkansas and other backward states where all that matters is guns? I do not believe that Greg Abbott's vision for Texas is the vision shared by most Texans, but that's why we have elections and horse races."

•    Patrick, Staples mix it up over decade-old immigrant bill (The Dallas Morning News): "Lieutenant governor hopeful Dan Patrick on Tuesday criticized rival Republican Todd Staples as a hypocrite on illegal immigration. Staples, the state agriculture commissioner, talks tough now but once 'supported providing illegal immigrants with taxpayer funded, non-emergency health care,' Patrick said in a release. 'Is this really conservative leadership?' he said. Staples campaign manager Cody McGregor responded that Patrick, a state senator from Houston, distorted a bill that actually would have saved money taxpayers."

•    Fight over Texas abortion law continues (Fort Worth Star-Telegram): "Barbara Clarkin paced back and forth before a Planned Parenthood clinic Tuesday afternoon, carrying rosary beads and offering up prayers for women who might consider having abortions. Her prayers came in the wake of a court ruling Monday that at least temporarily derailed the part of the new Texas abortion law that requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital less than 30 miles away from them, a rule that would have essentially shuttered about one third of Texas’ abortion clinics. ... People on both sides of the argument — those who, like Clarkin, hope the full law is ultimately reinstated, and others, such as Planned Parenthood officials, who are fighting to keep abortion clinics open for women who need or want that option — are gearing up for a long, difficult fight in Fort Worth and in cities across the state."

•    Abortion providers proceed cautiously amid legal wrangling (San Antonio Express-News): "State officials Tuesday appealed a federal judge's order blocking a portion of Texas' new abortion law, as a prohibition against performing the procedure after 20 weeks of pregnancy quietly took effect Tuesday. The ban will affect only a small percentage of abortions in Texas. Still, abortion-rights proponents say the restriction will mean that women who learn late about serious birth defects or face life-threatening conditions themselves no longer will have the option to terminate their pregnancies. Previously, abortions could be performed up to the 24th week, except to save the life of the mother."

•    Community College Group Launches Texas Success Center (The Texas Tribune): "The Texas Association of Community Colleges on Tuesday announced the creation of a new Texas Success Center, which is designed to provide statewide coherence and coordination to the state's approaches to student success and to advocate for related policies."

Quote to Note: "If it weren’t for Wendy Davis’ leadership, Greg Abbott might have nearly disenfranchised himself." — Bo Delp, a spokesman for Davis, responding to Abbott having to sign an affidavit to vote

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