Two-thirds rule likely to scuttle key Texas appointment

The Texas Senate operates on a rule that is designed ostensibly to promote bipartisanship.

It’s the two-thirds rule, which requires 21 of the Senate’s 31 members to approve legislation — and appointments.

However, all 12 of the Senate’s Democrats are going to oppose the nomination of David Whitley as the next Texas secretary of state. That leaves him with just 19 votes, all of which will come from Senate Republicans.

It seems that Whitley, who’s been acting as secretary of state, blew it when his office “flagged” several thousand voters who were thought to be illegal residents of Texas. It turns out that many of those flagged were quite legal. One of them happened to be a key member of a Senate Democrat’s staff.

Can we hear an “oops”?

Gov. Greg Abbott appointed Whitley to be the state’s top elections officer this past year, but the Legislature was not in session, meaning that the Senate hadn’t yet formally approved his nomination. With the Senate’s 12 Democratic members now on record as opposing his appointment, it appears that Abbott might have to look for someone else to run the state’s election system.

The Secretary of State’s Office committed a fairly embarrassing cluster flip with the flagging of those names. It sought to purge the system of what it said were illegal voters, only to determine that the list of flagged voters was significantly inaccurate.

Abbott said he still supports Whitley fully, which is what one would expect him to say.

I’ll offer this bit of advice: David Whitley needs to bow out; the governor needs to find another nominee. Then we can get back to the task of running our state elections instead of looking for bogeymen where they likely don’t exist.

Yes, the Texas Senate’s two-thirds rule works.

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