Remember the old saying that criminals always return to the scene of the crime? Maybe that explains why ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, is headed to Dallas for its annual conference this week.
Over the last four years, laws making it harder to vote have been spreading across the country, including in Texas. And ALEC has been in the thick of it. A voter ID bill passed in 2011 in Texas closely resembles ALEC’s “Voter ID Act.” The Texas bill was sponsored by several ALEC-member legislators, and signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry, an ALEC alum and award winner. The U.S. Justice Department blocked the law in 2012, but when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down parts of the Voting Rights Act in June 2013 in Shelby County v. Holder, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced the voter ID bill would take effect “immediately.”
Texas’s law is one of the most stringent in the country, and could make it harder to vote for an estimated 5-10% of the state’s 13.6 million voters. After the Supreme Court struck down part of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby, the Department of Justice filed a new case against the law.
Texas voters are already experiencing problems at their polling places as a direct result of the law. In the 2013 election, Judge Sandra Watts, State Sen. Wendy Davis, and Attorney General Greg Abbott all ran into problems at the polling place when their name on the official voter rolls did not exactly match their name of their photo IDs. Ruby Barber, a 92-year-old citizen of Bellmead, TX. was initially denied the election ID card required by the new law, after she was unable to produce her birth certificate. Royal Masset, the former political director of the Texas Republican Party, has publicly opposed the law because he has no way to prove that his 91 year-old mother is not dead given that he can’t provide her birth certificate. And The New York Times recently reported that college students, other young voters, and low-income citizens also are a target of voter ID laws. The latter group includes large numbers of black and Latino citizens who simply do not have the money or access to obtain the necessary documentation.
Since Common Cause, the Center for Media and Democracy, and coalition partners launched the campaign to expose ALEC and its proposed policies to make it harder for people to vote, hundreds of corporations and legislators have left ALEC. ALEC claims that it dropped its “Voter ID Act” from its list of “model” bills in April 2012. But the damage has already been done. Voter ID laws have been passed in more than two dozen states, most of them resembling ALEC’s model bill. In 2013, the year after ALEC claims it stopped supporting the bill, proposalssimilar to ALEC’s “Voter ID Act” were introduced in 20 states, the Center for Media and Democracy reported.
Key Texas Voter ID supporters, including Gov. Perry, Attorney General Abbott, and House Speaker Joe Straus, will be speaking at ALEC’s conference in Dallas. While ALEC has stopped pushing its “Voter ID Act,” at least openly, we are reminded of what ALEC co-founder Paul Weyrich once said: "I don't want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people. They never have been from the beginning of our country, and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down."
Texas is a prime example of how Weyrich’s vision of widespread voter suppression became a reality via the ALEC agenda.
This article was originally posted on Common Cause's Democracy Wire