Tag Archives: voter suppression

Hang tough, Texas Dems

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Here we go … again.

Texas Democratic legislators are fleeing the state to deny a quorum from being present to enact a law they find onerous … so much so that they are willing to watch state government grind to a halt.

To which I say: More power to em!

Gov. Greg Abbott called a special session to deal with some unresolved issues left by the regular legislative session. One of them is this goofy notion of protecting the Texas electoral system against a phantom known as “widespread voter fraud.”

Read my lips: There is no such fraud in Texas!

Texas Democrats attempt to block voting bill by fleeing state | The Texas Tribune

Yet the Texas Republican legislative caucus insists on throwing up barriers to voter access to prevent the kind of fraud some of them suggest occurred during the 2020 election that President Biden won bigly over the Republican incumbent who masqueraded as POTUS for four years.

Texas Democrats managed to stymie this rush toward voter suppression at the end of the Legislature’s regular session in late May. Republicans made a few changes to the proposed legislation in an effort to make it more palatable to Democrats when they convened for their special session.

A lot of clunkers remain in the amended version embraced by the Texas GOP. They still want to ban 24-hour mail-in voting; they still insist on having partisan poll watchers on duty while Texans cast their ballots.

The essence of a thriving democratic system of government is to encourage more people — not fewer of them — to vote in our elections. Texas was among many states across the nation that enjoyed record voter turnout in the 2020 presidential election. The 45th POTUS carried the state’s vote by about 6 percentage points, yet the Republican Party of Texas has concocted this notion that Texas was infected by rampant voter fraud.

Indeed, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick offered any Texan a million bucks if he or she could produce fraud on a scale that GOP honchos insist occurred in 2020. So far no one has come forth. Imagine that, eh?

And so, Texas Democrats are playing hardball with their GOP colleagues, who in my view are using legislative procedure to make it more difficult for Texans to cast their ballots.


Irony in special session

(Cooper Neill/The Dallas Morning News) 

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Surely I am not the only Texas observer who sees a certain irony in Gov. Greg Abbott summoning legislators back to Austin for a special session … given his veto of money to pay for legislative staffers’ salaries.

Think of this for just a moment.

Abbott became angry with Texas House Democrats because they walked off the House floor to prevent a voter suppression bill to become law during the regular legislative session. He vetoed legislators’ staff money to pay them back for failing to “do their job.”

Then he called them back from their home districts to do some more work. I don’t get it.

Abbott was prohibited from vetoing legislators’ salaries, as it is guaranteed by the Texas Constitution. Indeed, we don’t pay lawmakers very much money: $600 per month plus an expense stipend when they’re in session. Legislators will continue to get their measly amount despite the governor’s veto.

The House Appropriations Committee on Friday voted 21-0 to reinstate the money that Gov. Abbott vetoed.

As the Texas Tribune reported: The veto applies to the thousands of staffers who work directly for lawmakers and several state agencies. Those agencies include the Legislative Reference Library, which conducts research for the Legislature; the Legislative Budget Board, which develops policy and budget recommendations and provides fiscal analyses for legislation; the Legislative Council, which helps draft and analyze potential legislation; the State Auditor’s Office, which reviews the state’s finances; and the Sunset Advisory Commission, which reviews the efficiency of state agencies.

Texas lawmakers take first steps to restore Legislature’s funding after veto | The Texas Tribune

I just happen to believe the governor’s veto of this money and his quick action to summon everyone back to Austin drips with a certain irony that I cannot let go  unnoticed.

Why not make the case … and debate?

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Congressional Republicans managed to win the latest battle in their fight to prevent any federal reform of voting practices. They held together to prevent debate on a legislative package proposed by their Democratic colleagues.

This begs the obvious question: If they believe in their argument against overhauling the federal vote system, why do they insist on denying any reasonable, thorough and comprehensive debate on it on the floor of the U.S. Senate?

I have a theory. It goes like this: They aren’t interested in the issues attached to Democrats’ proposal; they merely want to suppress the vote by making it more difficult for Democratic-leaning voters to cast their ballots.

That’s my way of suggesting that if they are forced to argue the merits of their case, they would lose the war.

Public opinion aligns with the Democrats’ view of voter reform. The public opposes Republican efforts to suppress voters’ access to elections.

Democrats today lost the latest skirmish in this overall war. They did manage to hold their own 50-member caucus together. The problem was it wasn’t enough to break through the 60-vote barrier that would have been required to commence debate on this issue.

I will stay tuned, though, for this struggle to continue. My hope is that we can get past the obstructionism being orchestrated by the once-Grand Old Party.

This is ‘good government’?

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Joe Manchin is tying himself up in knots.

The West Virginia Democratic member of the U.S. Senate has become the Man of the Hour as his fellow Democrats wrestle with how to keep alive a comprehensive voter law.

Manchin is thought to be the most conservative member of the Senate Democratic caucus. Democrats need him to vote “yes” Tuesday on a procedural vote that keeps alive the For the People Act. The bill has zero Republican support. It needs all 50 Senate Democrats to sign on to send a message to the GOP caucus that Democrats also stand united in favor of a bill that seeks to protect against states’ efforts to roll back voter access to millions of Americans.

Former President Obama has signed on to a compromise offered by Manchin, which to my way of defining the term is the essence of “good government.” Manchin appears to be enjoying his role of go-to guy on this landmark legislation. He has said what he would support and what he would oppose.

A deadlocked Senate won’t break a GOP filibuster, but it does send a message that this notion isn’t going to wither and die just because Democrats can’t end a Republican filibuster.

So it falls on Sen. Manchin to vote “yes” on something that isn’t perfect in his mind. Then again, legislation that becomes law usually contains some elements that displease someone within the legislative branch of government.

I’m not exactly holding my breath on this one. I just want to wait along with the rest of the nation to see whether Joe Manchin keeps this key legislation alive.

Abbott inflicts needless pain

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Gov. Greg Abbott is playing hardball, all right.

Except that he has aimed his “high hard fastball” at hundreds of legislative staffers who do not deserve to suffer from the governor’s anger.

Get a load of this: Abbott has vetoed funds appropriated by the 2021 Legislature to pay legislators’ salaries … such as they are. The veto also takes aim at staffers’ salaries, the folks who do the hard work on behalf of the elected members of the Texas House and Senate. Texas legislators earn $600 each month, plus a per diem expense amount when they’re in session. They all have day jobs back home in their legislative districts or are wealthy enough to take time to serve in the state House or Senate.

Abbott is angry with House Democrats who walked off the floor of the legislative assembly in its waning hours. They managed to deny the Legislature a quorum needed to enact a controversial voter overhaul bill that Abbott said he wanted to sign into law. Oh, the law happens to be a turkey that has drawn the unified wrath of the Texas Democratic legislative caucus. It seeks to empower judges to more easily overturn election results, it reduces early voting opportunities, it takes a hard line against mail-in voting. In short, the GOP proposal makes it more difficult for Texans to vote.

The Democratic caucus opposes the effort to restrict voting opportunities.

Abbott’s punishment is much too broad and inflicts far too many collateral casualties.

“Texans don’t run from a legislative fight, and they don’t walk away from unfinished business,” Abbott said in a statement while vetoing the legislative funding measure. “Funding should not be provided for those who quit their job early, leaving their state with unfinished business and exposing taxpayers to higher costs for an additional legislative session.”

But again, what about the hardworking legislative staffers who have been caught in this game of political football? They need not be punished along with their legislators.

This isn’t my idea of good government. It’s heavy-handed government dictated by a governor who is letting his petulance get in the way of sound policy.

Note: A version of this blog was published initially on KETR-FM’s website, ketr.org

Stand tall, Texas Democrats!

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Well now. Lo and behold there is some fight left in the Texas Democratic legislative caucus after all.

The House Democrats walked off the floor of their chamber Sunday night to deprive House Republicans of a quorum they needed to enact a restrictive voter law that many of us out here interpret as a form of voter suppression.

The law would limit voter access to millions of Texans, mainly those in minority communities, and would serve, as President Biden noted, to further the cause of “un-American” efforts to restrict voting access for Americans.

To be sure, the fight ain’t over. Gov. Greg Abbott is now likely to call a special legislative session to bring lawmakers back to seek to finish the job that Democrats prevented with their walkout.

“We’ve said for so many years that we want more people to participate in our democracy. And it just seems that’s not the case,” Democratic state Rep. Carl Sherman said.

The Wall Street Journal reported: “I am disappointed that some members decided to break quorum,” said Republican state Rep. Briscoe Cain, who carried the bill in the House. “We all know what that meant. I understand why they were doing it, but we all took an oath to Texans that we would be here to do our jobs.”

Well, Rep. Cain, doing your job should not include acting on the Big Lie fomented by the former Liar in Chief, Donald Trump, about phony vote fraud. Yet that is what Cain and the Texas GOP caucus is trying to do. They seek to subvert access to the voting process by eliminating drive-through voting, restricting mail-in balloting, reducing early voting times all because they contend this activity is fraught with the potential for the vote fraud that Trump said occurred during the 2020 presidential election.

Texas Democrats Prevent Republicans From Passing Restrictive Voting Bill (msn.com)

If and when Abbott calls the special session, my strong hope is that Texas Democrats continue to stand as one body to prevent this kind of legislative chicanery from becoming law.

Mitch backs down … who knew?

(Photo by Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has taken back what he said about Major League Baseball, Coca-Cola and Delta Airlines’ decision to oppose a controversial Georgia vote law.

He said that big business should stay out of politics. McConnell admitted he didn’t speak “artfully” about the firms’ opposition to regulations that critics contend limit voters’ access to casting ballots.

McConnell backs away from warning businesses to stay out of politics (msn.com)

The truth is that McConnell has been exposed once again as the political hypocrite for which he has become infamous. You see, McConnell said that the Supreme Court’s decision in 2010 to allow corporations to contribute unlimited amounts of political money was, um, all right with him. The case became known as “Citizens United.”

So, it was all right for corporations to donate to GOP campaigns but not all right when they oppose GOP-friendly legislation and laws.

Don’t get me wrong. I am glad that GOP leader McConnell has switched gears on this matter. I just felt the need to put it in some context that McConnell chose to overlook.

Vote ‘reform’ based on the Big Lie

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

State legislators and governors keep yapping about “protecting the electoral process” by enacting rules that make it more difficult for millions of Americans to actually vote.

All of which makes me wonder: Against what are these officials seeking to protect us? 

I think I know. They are protecting us against a bogus affliction of voter fraud promulgated by the Big Lie that took root when Donald Trump was in the process of losing his bid for re-election as president of the United States.

You’ll recall when Trump alleged that were he to lose his re-election bid it would be the result of “widespread fraud.” That illegal voters would be able to cast ballots. That they would vote for Joe Biden.

Evidence in state after state has concluded that the voter fraud Trump said existed doesn’t exist. Has there been a scant ballot cast illegally? Sure. Is it as widespread and corrosive to the system as Republicans, led by Trump, Not by a long shot.

Indeed, the man Donald Trump hired to protect the nation’s electoral system, Christopher Krebs, declared the 2020 election to be the “safest, most secure” election in U.S. history. What did he get for doing his job? Donald Trump fired him!

Texas has joined the vote fraud amen chorus by approving voter suppression laws. Major League Baseball responded to Georgia’s restrictions by pulling its all-star game from Atlanta. This debate, as you would expect, has fallen along partisan lines: Republicans make the bogus case of vote fraud; Democrats debunk those claims and allege that the GOP is seeking to hold onto the power it has in many states by any means necessary.

I keep circling back, though, to the cause of all this tempest. It is the Big Lie, which culminated on Jan. 6 when the riotous mob of terrorists mounted an insurrection against the federal government just as it was certifying Joe Biden’s election as president.

The Big Lie continues to fester in the minds of those in state capitols who enact laws that have little to do with vote fraud but seemingly everything to do with making it more difficult for Americans to vote.

We are witnessing a disgraceful assault on a cherished right of citizenship.

Expanding vote base a ‘power grab’? C’mon, Ted!

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Ted Cruz says that efforts to allow more people to vote, to expand the voter base, is a “power grab.”

Hmm. Let’s parse that one for a moment, eh?

The Texas Republican U.S. senator was taken to task today by a letter writer whose missive was published in the Dallas Morning News. Richard Kidd of Dallas writes, “The only power grab is a party with minority support trying to hold on to power by disenfranchising as many people as possible … The right to vote is a pillar of a democracy and Cruz took an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Congress has a duty to ensure as many citizens as possible have a right to vote and be represented.”

I get his drift. I trust you do, too.

A mantra I beat into the ground over many years as a full-time journalist was that a representative democracy works best when we spread the power out among more, not fewer, voters. That is one argument I sought to make in different ways for greater voter turnout at election time.

It also lies at the heart, I only can presume, at efforts to expand availability to as many voters as human possible.

At its base, increased voter participation shouldn’t ever become a partisan battle. It has become that, however. Republicans are seeking to restrict voter access to ethnic and racial minorities who tend to vote, um, for Democrats. The GOP just can’t have that happen, right? So in states such as Texas, Republican legislators are pushing for rules that make it more difficult for minorities to get registered and to actually vote.

The result will be to invest more power in fewer Americans. It will place more power in the hands of the few and the proud. It also, in my view, runs directly counter to the argument I have been yammering about since The Flood, which is that democracy works better when we spread the power among greater numbers of voters.

So, for Ted Cruz to lament a phony “power grab” while objecting to increasing voter access only reveals how cheaply he values our democratic process.

So much to hate about this law

(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

The new Georgia voter suppression law signed by Gov. Brian Kemp is so detestable at so many levels.

One element, though, rises above the rest of it in terms of its offensiveness. It’s the prohibition that makes it a crime to provide food and refreshments to voters who are standing in line — sometimes for many hours — to cast their votes.

I want you to ponder that for a moment. What in the world can be possibly gained from this prohibition? It appears designed to dissuade people from voting if they believe a long wait is in the offing. Indeed, Georgia electoral history suggests that long voting wait times occurs most frequently in precincts with large African-American majorities, who — surprise! — tend to vote for Democratic candidates for public office.

So, this is the Republican response? This is how that state’s GOP intends to fight?

The law limits the number of polling places. It places restrictions on early voting. Across the board the law seeks to make voting a good bit more difficult, which to my way of thinking is about as un-American as any legislation I have seen in a good while.

The notion, though, that Americans cannot deliver refreshments to their fellow citizens to give them sustenance while they wait to cast their ballot is just plain offensive in the extreme.

It sickens me.