Doublespeak on Voting Rights in Harris County

Alice+humptyWe agreed in a court order to quit illegally denying citizens their right to vote but we weren’t doing that in the first place and we won’t do it again but we’ll get the taxpayers to pay for the costs of the litigation to make sure the facts don’t come out in court even though the facts were on our side because the lawsuit had no merit.

That’s the message from the new Harris County voter registrar, Tax Assessor-Collector Leo Vasquez, who is really the sock-puppet of Tax Assessor-in-Exile Paul Bettencourt. You can’t make this stuff up.

In a press release, Vasquez said:

As I have always held, this lawsuit proved to be completely without merit.

Now, if the lawsuit filed by the Texas Democratic Party over the 2008 voter suppression tactics of the Tax Assessor were without merit, why didn’t the Tax Assessor get the lawsuit dismissed? Why sign a settlement and agree not to do again what you said you never did in the first place?

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GOP Using Public Office to Rig Elections

voting rightsThe Republican-controlled Harris County voter registrar has been forced to settle a lawsuit over the 2008 denial of 78,000 voter registration applications, one-third of the 240,000 received. The settlement is scheduled for discussion at the Harris County Commissioner’s Court on Tuesday.

Let’s make this clear. Republicans used their public office to suppress the votes of citizens they were afraid would vote against them. Americans are justifiably outraged when such anti-democratic acts take place in, say, Afghanistan, as happened in the recent elections there. To make the point that it can happen here, Sinclair Lewis titled his 1935 book about political thuggery  in America, It Can’t Happen Here. Now we know it is happening here.

What happened?  In 2006 Democrats won elections for every  Dallas County office. In 2008, Republicans looked at their increasing negatives and destructive, unpopular policies and feared the same would happen in Harris County. Rather than change those policies they set out to rig the election, and they used their elected offices to do it.

In 2004’s The Politics of Deceit,  I wrote:

The most underreported political scandal in America today is the systematic effort of some in the Republican Party to suppress the vote of those whom they believe — with probable cause — will vote against them. Their efforts are aimed primarily at minorities and the poor. The perpetrators betray the spirit of democracy and the intentions of the Founding Fathers. By their actions they make it plain that their own interests…take precedence over the health of the Republic.

As a political journalist in Texas in the 70s and 80s, I’m afraid I was one of those guilty of the underreporting. We covered the story in 1982 when Karl Rove and others tried to purge voter roles with a fraudulent list of felons, but we treated that and other voter suppression efforts like we’d treat a car wreck — not the crack-up of democracy it is.

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