In HD-48, Republican Dan Neil is taking his recount battle to unseat incumbent State Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin) directly to the Texas Legislature. Travis County officials are now admitting that (some?) straight-ticket overseas ballots were counted for the November election, but only in statewide races.
Why not for the Texas House, specifically from those serving in the armed forces?
After all, a state legislator has direct purview over many matters of public policy that directly effect soldiers that will return home as veterans. That fact is curiosuly absent from articles posted by the Austin American-Statesman and The Texas Tribune.
First, and perhaps foremost, the Texas House of Representatives has direct purview over originating all legislation regarding taxation, from sales tax rates to property tax protections, to whether or not the state should consider imposing a personal income tax. Wasn’t one of our nation’s founding principles, “No Taxation Without Representation”? Certainly a soldier serving in harm’s way deserves to have their voice heard at the ballot box about who will represent them on these important issues in the Lone Star State.
Next, the State of Texas has been very generous in taking care of our returning heroes, and provides numerous programs for veterans. For example, the General Land Office — headed by a statewide elected official — manages land programs for veterans, the Texas State Veterans Homes for aging veterans, and a system of cemeteries, among others. Now does the Land Commissioner get a vote? But not the legislator that votes to provide the policy direction and programmatic funding for the agency?
Further, the Texas Veterans Commission, led by gubernatorial appointees, provides guidance for returning veterans on employment services and education programs, etc. Now it sounds like gubernatorial candidates may have received these votes in Travis County, but not those running for the Texas Senate, who would be called upon to confirm gubernatorial appointments. I guess these matters are too important to allow troops overseas to have a say in the discussion, at least when it comes to electing their state senator.
Lastly, there are numerous other policy decisions the Texas Legislature establishes related to the military, including higher education tuition rates and exemptions. Not to mention the “mundane” policies of governance that will impact the soldier’s property and family awaiting them in Texas; including public education policy, should they have school-age children.
Yet once again, if Travis County’s position is allowed to stand, soldiers abroad will continue to be blocked from having their voice heard on who will represent them on these issues at the ballot box.
Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) will soon to appoint a committee to investigate Mr. Neil’s claim and make a recommendation for the full House to consider. This decision will be telling whether the Speaker is committed to a real investigation or another kangaroo hearing.
While Empower Texans has not taken a position regarding the merits of Mr. Neil’s challenge at this time, we did strongly endorse and support his campaign during the election season, and he was the only candidate in the race to have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge with the constituents of HD-48.
The process of elections should be held in a straight-forward and consistent manner, and we will continue to defend the right of all Texans serving overseas in uniform to have their vote counted in all races, whether federal, state or local.
It remains to be seen if the Texas House of Representatives will have the courage to uphold these principles in this case. Regardless, outrageous multiple voting standards that disenfranchise military voters need to stop in all future elections.