On Tuesday, March 1, the House Select Committee on Voter Identification and Voter Fraud will begin hearing testimony on the Voter ID bill that passed the Texas Senate two weeks ago. While this is definitely a good start at combating those who wish to skew the will of voters, I believe there is more that could be done during this legislative session. During this session, as in previous sessions, Voter ID has been the main focus for combating fraud, but there is another problem plaguing Texas – vote harvesting.
Over the past year I have aided Texas Watchdog, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose aim is to hold governments in Texas more accountable, in researching cases of vote harvesting in South Texas. I believe this is a noble cause because for too long crooked politicians have sought to abuse the elderly and disabled’s right to vote by influencing these decisions by hiring politiqueras, or political workers to literally harvest votes for a candidate. Having grown up on the border, I have realized that this practice is not only commonplace, but a large part of the political “process” in South Texas, unfortunately. When I first discussed the problem, many Democrats in my hometown scoffed at these efforts because their party more often than not benefits from these politiqueras. As time has progressed, justice has began to catch up with them and pressure has increased to crack down on this despicable practice.
Fortunately, there are men of conviction in the politics who seek to uphold and defend our most basic right to express our views with a vote every two years. In addition to the legislators who have filed legislation regarding Voter ID, I would like to thank state Rep. Aaron Pena, R–Edinburgh, for taking it a step further by filing HB304 to crack down on the illegal practice of vote harvesting which silences voices and skews election results by abusing those who need assistance. We deserve the will of the people, but how can we truly have it when there are no restrictions on politiqueras. Rep. Pena’s HB304 will:
– require precinct officials to verify the identification of anyone assisting another voter, making sure that they are a registered voter in the county in which the election is being held,
– limit the number of people anyone may assist in a day to just two,
– and make anyone who violates this law liable to the state for a civil penalty of up to $10,000.
It is important that we as citizens support this bill and ask our elected officials to do so as well because the practice of vote harvesting is as much of a threat to our democracy as voter misrepresentation. In addition, we must educate ourselves on this issue that is unfortunately too often overlooked. Voter ID bills and vote harvesting bills such as HB304 complement each other in that together they will ensure that the voice of every Texan is heard in honesty and that our democracy is no longer tarnished by crooked politicians who pay for their votes. It is imperative that more elected officials stand in courage with Rep. Pena to uphold the fundamentals of our representative democracy – fair and open elections!