We don't usually write about state-level legislative wrangling, but in this case, we think you'll agree that there's good reason.
Before the election, we wrote a lot about the Republican effort to make it harder for poor and minority voters to cast ballots. In several states, the GOP took advantage of restrictive voter ID laws, passed in recent years, to try to force election officials to purge voters from the rolls.
A well-organized campaign by voting rights groups and Democrats helped mitigate the damage. But that doesn't seem to have deterrred the GOP...
In fact, Texas Republicans have doubled down on the strategy, "pushing a bill to require voters to show a photo ID -- a requirement that, studies show, would hit poor and minority voters, who vote disproportionately Democratic, particularly hard. As usual, the stated rationale for the bill is to protect against voter fraud -- and as usual, Republicans have produced no actual evidence that such fraud is occurring.
Similar laws exist in Indiana and Florida, Republican election officials in both states sought to use those laws to make it harder to vote.
The bill passed the GOP-controlled Texas Senate today, on a party-line vote, reports the Dallas Morning News -- but not before some noteworthy developments during Senate hearings.
First, in an sign of how the movement for this bill ties in to broader GOP efforts to make voting harder, Republicans wheeled out arch voter suppression guru and TPMmuckraker fave Hans Von Spakovsky to testify about the dangers of voter fraud.
Then, the hearing, run by Republicans, ended up dragging on from Tuesday morning all the way until this morning. Some citizens who had been called by Democrats to testify did not get to speak until 6am this morning.
Reported the DMN:
One woman who waited all night sobbed during her testimony, saying she had no idea she would have to wait more than 20 hours to speak.
The bill is expected to face a much tougher time in the closely divided House. And Democrats have said they plan to challenge the bill's legality in court, under the Voting Rights Act.
Meanwhile, in Washington, the Senate Rules committee, chaired by Chuck Schumer, released an MIT study finding that up to 7 million voters were prevented or discouraged from casting votes in the November election, thanks largely to barriers to voter registration.
As Republicans understand, making voting harder can make a difference in a close election. And the terms of battle for 2010 and 2012 are already being drawn...