One word in the voter ID bill brought debate in the Texas House to a halt today, postponing passage of the measure — one of Gov. Rick Perry's emergency items — for at least a couple of days.
State Rep. Armando Martinez, D-Weslaco, called the point of order, arguing that wording in the bill analysis that says voters have “six business days” to legitimize their vote after casting a provisional ballot was vastly different from the text of the bill itself, which only says “six days.”
The legislation would require voters to present a form of approved photo identification, like a state-issued driver’s license or concealed handgun license, in order to cast a ballot.
The bill now gets redrafted, goes back to committee and will likely see House action again this week. Some lawmakers say that could happen as soon as Wednesday. State Rep. Aaron Peña, R-Edinburg, said the bill would be back up in the Voter ID committee meeting later today.
Before the point of order, debate between Democrats and Republicans was a rehash of arguments the political parties have made all session long.
Saying a valid ID was necessary to do almost anything, including open a bank account or rent a car, state Rep. Patricia Harless, R-Spring, officially opened up the debate on the House floor. She is the House sponsor of the amended version of SB 14 by state Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay.
“The lack of public confidence in our voting system cannot be questioned," Harless said.
Democrats allege the measure will disenfranchise minorities, students and the elderly. They also argue there is scant evidence that the bill is necessary in Texas.
One of the most outspoken opponents of the bill, state Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, repeatedly asked Harless for statistics that show voter fraud is the widespread problem that supporters allege.
“If illegal immigrants are really infiltrating elections, they must be voting straight-ticket Republican,” he said.
Before the exchange began, House members were prepared for an all-day debate, with some predicting a vote would not occur until near midnight. More than three dozen amendments were pre-filed, but only two of them were debated before the point of order interrupted the bill's progress.
The legislation nearly derailed the 2009 session after Democrats, who at the time had 74 members in the Texas House, used stalling tactics to prevent the bill from coming to the floor for a vote. Despite today's action, the legislation is still expected to pass. Democrats' numbers dwindled to 49 after last year's election, compared to 101 Republicans.
The House Select Committee on Voter ID and Voter Fraud this afternoon approved a redrafted version of SB 14. The Calendars Committee will meet this evening and likely vote to send the bill back to the House floor. Lawmakers said the bill could be back up for debate as soon as Wednesday.