Why do Texans keep making ourselves the laughingstock of the nation? Because we keep electing people who are either (1) stupid, (2) incompetent, (3) mean-spirited or (4) a total of (1), (2) and (3). This is the state whose Legislature honored Albert DeSalvo “for his work in population control.” Later the lawmakers discovered DeSalvo was the Boston Strangler. Gotcha! Former Speaker Gus Mutscher noted some disabled petitioners in wheelchairs in the House balcony. Mutscher said: “Now why don’t you folks stand and be recognized?” And there was Sen. Walter “Mad Dog” Mengden who stormed: “And that’s the problem, if there is a problem, which I deny!”
Still, we must remember we elected (twice) a governor who called out the Texas State Guard to monitor the U.S. Army which was conducting a regular training exercise, Jade Helm 15, in Texas and several other states. Gov. Greg Abbott feared the troops would seize our guns and take over Texas. Our lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, the Official State Demagogue, has spent a lot of our money fighting against the scourge of transgender bathrooms in schools. It’s a good thing these two leaders have solved all the major problems in Texas: underfunded education, lowest child vaccine rates in the nation, pollution, Texas A&M and UT won’t play each other in football, etc. etc.
Our latest embarrassment has caused a lot of anxiety and may decide the outcome of our elections, as if we could do worse. On Jan. 25, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton tweeted a “VOTER FRAUD ALERT” that raced around the internet. The ALERT was that Texas Secretary of State David Whitley had discovered that approximately “95,000 individuals identified” as non-citizens who are registered to vote in the state, “58,000 of whom have voted.” Whitley urged counties to begin purging these 95,000 people from their voter rolls. The county clerks should demand proof of citizenship within 30 days or their registrations would be cancelled. Whitley, who was appointed to the position over a month ago by Abbott, referred the names to Paxton’s office for possible criminal prosecution.
Abbott, who made voter fraud a priority item for the Texas Legislature in 2017, said that “illegal voting in Texas will not be tolerated, and as governor, I will continue to root it out and punish it.” Republicans via email responded within three hours of Paxton’s tweet: “We knew it was happening and now we have proof.” President Donald Trump jumped on board, since voter fraud has also been one of his hot buttons, right up there with building a wall – or something — fake news and who kneels at football games. Our President tweeted that Whitley’s numbers “are just the tip of iceberg.” Voter fraud, Trump wrote, “is rampant. Must be stopped. Strong voter ID!” Actually, Texas has one of the strongest voter ID screenings – some might say barriers — in the nation. At the same time, we always rank at the bottom in voter participation, and our state leaders should be trying to get out the vote, not constantly finding ways to suppress it.
There was just one problem with Paxton’s and Whitley’s alarm: it was bogus, “misleading” would be charitable, “downright dirty” is better. It was a clumsy and transparent attempt to keep tens of thousands of Texans from voting. In a nutshell, Whitley obtained the names of people who, when getting or renewing their Texas driver’s license dating back to 1996, had stated that they were not U.S. citizens – which is perfectly legal. Then he compared those names with names on voting lists. Driver’s licenses issued to non-citizens are valid for six years, and over the last six years, nearly 350,000 Texas adults have been naturalized, or more than 50,000 annually. They pass the citizenship test by correctly saying “y’all,” “Come sit rat cheer” and know all the words to “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.”
Clerks in Texas’ 254 counties had to stop what they were doing and started sorting through endless and ancient pages of documents. Quickly the accusations fell apart. Dallas County officials said that 1,715 of their 9,938 flagged registered voters were incorrectly included. Officials in Williamson and Travis counties reported at least 50 and 14 percent respectively were found to be legal voters. Officials in Harris County said approximately 18,000 of the nearly 30,000 people were legal voters. In McLennan County (Waco), every single person on the purge list was found to be a citizen, lawfully registered to vote. Others have taken notice of our blunder. The San Francisco Chronicle: “Texas: Where the hunt for voter fraud is worse than the crime itself. A massive scheme to commit voter fraud is going on right now in Texas. What makes it all the more cynical and twisted is that it is being perpetrated in the name of preventing voter fraud. And top officials in the state are complicit.” Within days of Paxton’s alarming tweet, Whitley started backtracking. He quietly informed county officials that a “significant number” of people on the list are actually citizens. But later he appeared before a Legislative committee and defended his work, and said he plans to conduct similar searches every month.
At this point you may wonder why we even have a secretary of state. It began, like so much of Texas’ thangs, when we were an independent nation and needed diplomats. Texas had an election for President, and Stephen F. Austin ran for the job. Austin felt confident he could win until just two weeks before the election, Sam Houston entered the race. Austin received 587 votes to Sam Houston’s 5,119 and Henry Smith’s 743 votes. But then Houston appointed Austin as the first secretary of state of the new republic to handle our foreign affairs. However, Austin died two months later. We can only wonder what Houston, Austin and the other Founding Fathers and Mothers would think of today’s leaders, just don’t tell them about the bathrooms.
Ashby is fraudulent at firstname.lastname@example.org