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The Brief: March 8, 2012

The state may have finally found a date to hold its primaries, but another round of potentially volatile election controversy awaits Texas voters.

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The Big Conversation:

The state may have finally found a date to hold its primaries, but another round of potentially volatile election controversy awaits Texas voters.

The Tribune's Julián Aguilar reports that the U.S. Justice Department could rule as soon as Monday whether Texas can implement its contentious voter ID law, which would require voters to present photo identification at the polls. State legislators passed the law during the 2011 session at the urging of Gov. Rick Perry, who deemed the measure an emergency.

Texas and 15 other states with a history of discriminatory voting practices must receive approval, or preclearance, from the Justice Department before implementing redistricting maps or other laws that affect voting practices. Texas submitted its original preclearance request for the voter ID law in July, and the Justice Department has since requested additional information on Texas' voting population, including the racial composition of the state's voters and the number of voters without state-issued photo IDs who have Hispanic surnames.

Approval of the law — which Republicans say prevents voter fraud, but Democrats say is intended to disenfranchise minority voters — could spark a fresh round of controversy. As the Houston Chronicle reports today, as many as 18 percent of registered voters in Texas lack state-issued photo IDs that match their voter registration cards, according to documents the state has submitted to the Justice Department.

The state, in other words, couldn't find matching photo IDs for 2.4 million of the state's 12.8 million registered voters, according to the Chronicle, which found that the law would largely affect voters in 20 of the state's majority-Hispanic counties.

But don't expect the controversy to die down if the Justice Department nixes the law: Attorney General Greg Abbott filed suit in January to defend the measure if the federal government denies preclearance.

Culled:

  • Politico reports that frustration in the Ron Paul campaign is mounting in light of the congressman's apparent inability to translate his followers' rabid enthusiasm into votes on Election Day — a reality highlighted by Paul's underwhelming performance on Super Tuesday in Alaska, Idaho and North Dakota, the three states Paul had predicted publicly that he would win. In a twist, it seems that Paul's key demographic, young voters, may have become a problem for the campaign. According to U.S. News & World Report, Paul attracted no more youth support than either Rick Santorum or Mitt Romney in five states on Super Tuesday. “This has always been a political reality that young people don’t vote,” Jesse Benton, Paul's national campaign chairman, told Politico. “But we need to really, really make the case to young people. … Young people need to start to take the reins."
  • Texas' Public Utility Commission, which regulates the state's electric industry, indicated Wednesday that it may raise wholesale electricity prices during peak-demand periods to encourage investors to build more power plans, according to the Austin American-Statesman. The move would address electricity shortages in the state, though commissioners have yet to agree on when and by how much prices would be raised.
  • Henry Cuellar, the Laredo congressman whom fellow Democrats accused of working too closely with Republicans during the redistricting process, tells the San Antonio Express-News that he is pleased with new temporary redistricting maps that have created Latino congressional districts in San Antonio and Dallas. As Cuellar, who served as secretary of state under Gov. Rick Perry, tells the paper, “1.3 million Hispanics in Dallas would have been screwed if I would have kept my mouth shut."

"A brokered convention is the most favorable situation for Ron winning the nomination." — Ron Paul national campaign chairman Jesse Benton to The Wall Street Journal

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