Editorial other views

The following editorial published in the Valley Morning Star on April 13:

The Texas Legislature appears ready to pass legislation that would severely restrict public access to the ballot box. Gov. Greg Abbott supports the measures and likely will sign them.

If we’ve learned anything from the events of the past few years, it should have been that the apparently increasing capricious nature of world events should inspire us to create more contingency plans and improve ways to improve important actions — not construct roadblocks and make them harder.

Especially access to the ballot box, which is the most fundamental public activity for U.S. citizens and the basis upon which our entire government is built.

One of the primary anti-democracy bills before state lawmakers is Senate Bill 7, a comprehensive measure that would restrict the placement of polling places, curtail the ability of local officials to extend voting hours, prohibit drive-thru voting and restrict counties’ delivery of mail-in ballots.

All of these activities came into play last year as the COVID-19 pandemic severely restricted public activities and could have drastically reduced voter turnout if creative elections officials hadn’t taken contingency measures.

One of the measures that one the most praise was the implementation of drive-thru voting, in which voters remained in their vehicles while precinct staffers brought ballots to them and ran them through the ballot boxes for them. Many voters who utilized this method might not have voted otherwise due to their fears of standing in crowded polling sites and risking exposure to the potentially deadly coronavirus.

Extended hours also were found necessary as voters participated numbers. Allowing officials to make such adjustments is crucial, as it helps give voters the opportunity, and the confidence, to join long lines of voters near the end of scheduled voting hours.

Local officials also should not lose the right to determine the best polling locations. Not only could another pandemic make it prudent to move precincts to safer facilities, but other events also could make last-minute moves necessary.

For example, heavy flooding in recent years has left many parts of the Rio Grande Valley impassible for days.

Houston has had similar problems, including two “100-year” floods just a couple of years apart. Fortunately, such events haven’t occurred during an election, but they could. Hurricanes, tornadoes and other events could also affect polling sites here and elsewhere. The state should not handcuff local officials against making necessary adjustments if any such event occurs during an election.

The worst part of this kind of legislation is that it is even more movement along the slow but steady loss of local and individual rights and control. Our country was founded upon the recognition of individual rights and the assertion of local determination. State limits on local officials only drag us farther down the road to tyranny.

State lawmakers should be looking for ways to help people cast their votes, not put barriers in front of them.

If they are worried about how people will use their votes, the solution is simple: pursue policies and champion causes for which the people will vote.

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(14) comments

Mike Gomez

Did you read the editorial? It was about Texas SB7. The article supplies all the details. Victoria is just one of 254 counties....I don’t have a problem with absentee. I haven’t had to show an ID for 10 years. Read the editorial, your argument is with them.

Diana Hawes

Mike, I have read the article, read Texas SB7, and have read other articles printed in The Victoria Advocate on this subject. I am totally fine with SB7. Totally! I believe SB7 tightens things up so there is no misunderstanding whatsoever. Every County will be expected to follow the same rules. Period. I also believe that some of SB7 is to protect the voters and the poll workers (no matter your political affiliation). Many of us watched with disbelief the riots and violence and billions of dollars of damage that played out over the last year across this Country we love. Of course, if The Victoria Advocate is your only source for news then you wouldn’t have any idea this violence and destruction was occurring.

Back to elections. I know firsthand many employers give their employees time off to go vote. During the last “Bond” election in Victoria, the former superintendent and Victoria ISD School Board approved and encouraged teachers to vote during the school day. Knowing that there would not be time during a teacher’s duty-free lunch (30 minutes off the clock), they allowed teachers to leave campus to vote during their planning time or BLOCK time (45 plus minutes on the clock). Of course, everyone took the time to be off campus on VISD time. Most to go vote, but others who just wanted to be off campus. Sadly, pictures of teachers started surfacing...some leaving a voting precinct and some leaving Sonic or other establishments. Some teachers even posted on Facebook the fact that they were off campus on school-time. The NO bond people were outraged and argued that teachers were basically being paid with taxpayer money to vote. As we all know, that Bond failed. I have since retired from VISD, so I am not sure if VISD continued to allow teachers to leave campus to vote while on VISD time. Possibly VISD allows this practice for other elections, but maybe not the elections where they have a dog in the hunt.

Mike Gomez

For the umpteen time, the editorial was not based on Victoria County or its voting practices. I have now stated several times that I am not criticizing our county. I have been voting mail-in for 10 -years because I received my ballot in a timely matter.

I really don’t know what the bond election or time off for teachers has to do with the editorial. I have never complained about voter suppression in Victoria County; voter empathy is another matter.

The only two good things about SB7 are the funding of voting machines that produce a paper trail and requiring the Texas Secretary of State to develop an electronic mail ballot tracking system. SB7 was approved on a GOP party-line vote.

Whatever happened to our love for the secret ballot? SB7 will allow partisan poll watchers to video or audio record if they “reasonably believe” election laws are being broken. Voter intimidation is more like it.

According to KHOU 11 in the 2020 election, there were 197 election fraud complaints in Texas. The complaints were voter registration fraud, unlawful assistance, bribery, and mail ballot fraud not one for voter impersonation. In the Houston area, the state received 18 complaints.

It’s not voter fraud it’s a Republican scare.

There is hardly any voter fraud and these “ounce of prevention” laws are really voter suppression laws.

So, we are writing voting laws to prevent another attack on our Capitol? Like the Oath Keepers and QAnon would accept the results certified by 50 Sec of State and Vice President Pence.

Rick Dockery

Hey Mike-I'm not a big fan of SB7. I do agree we need ensure everyone can vote, as long as measures are in place. On a side note, I'm very concerned about the two bills increasing the fees and regulations to run as a third party or independent in Texas. HB1812 and 1987. Republican supported. Elections should be more accessible for others to run. I don't like to see us heading into a pay to play game. Just wondering your thoughts

Diana Hawes

I’m certainly not trying to upset you. You asked me in another post if I had read the article and I responded I had read many articles, many of your blogs and comments, and in one it mentioned the 24 hour voting in Harris County, which won’t be happening if SB7 passes in its current form. I was using the VISD example as an alternative for those who couldn’t find time to vote and needed polls to be open 24 hours. Employers letting employees leave work in order to vote. Hopefully, when SB7 passes, every Texas County will follow the same laws and procedures. To answer your last question, I believe Texas and other States are writing voter laws because of the violence and deadly riots and billions of dollars of damage that occurred over this past year. Voters and poll workers must be protected.

Rick Dockery

My wife has taught for over 30 years and has always been able to run errands and such on her conference time. Teachers only get 30 minutes for lunch. Add 30 more minutes plus 2 15 minute breaks, and that by far makes up for the 45 min conference to do things. You must also be aware that most teachers work sunrise to sunset and even more. This example of yours is ludicrous. Who cares what a teacher does on their conference time, as long as the get there work done. Heck, many plan during the weekend and nights. They probably need a break for 45 minutes. Now, my wife didn't teach in VISD, but I can't imagine they restrict teachers from running errands on their conference. How petty is it to care what they are doing. Our tax dollars go to educate kids, not dictate what the teachers are doing. Teachers are salaried....So, not "on the clock." I'm a no bond voter, but would never be this petty. SMH

Mike Gomez

Rick, I’m sure Democrats and Republicans alike approve the rate hikes because they can afford it. I guess you can make a case for snuffing out the competition but if you want to play with the big boys and use their instruments, you’ve got to pay the band. Solution: increase membership and start winning local and state elections.

…Btw Now you know how I feel about voter suppression laws. Thank God for Stacey Abrams because against all odds she led a voter registration drive that defeated the Georgia suppression laws. And we can’t rest on our laurels the GOP is in full force driving the voter fraud scare.

Diana Hawes

Thank you for your response. As a retired educator, it is always interesting to read about other Districts’ policies. I have only taught in Victoria...6 years at Nazareth Academy and 22 years with Victoria ISD (10 years as an elementary teacher and 12 years as an administrator). The District allowed us a 30 minute duty-free lunch (we were allowed to leave campus as this was not considered District time) and we also had a 45 minute planning/conference time that was considered District time (Yes, we were salaried). I never thought about it as being petty, but just part of my contract. As I stated in an earlier post, I retired two years ago so this aspect of a teacher’s day may have changed. I certainly relate to your wife’s work ethic. At times it feels as if one is working two full-time jobs!

Rick Dockery

Thank you for teaching

Mike Gomez

I meant to say it was not hard to vote in Victoria county

Mike Gomez

Amen ....make it easier to voter not harder.

Diana Hawes

Hey, Mike. I certainly appreciate your passion. Your comment on April 19, 2021, “Amen...make it easier to vote[d] not harder” was confusing to me. I early-voted in Victoria County yesterday, April 19, 2021, and I feel sure that Margetta Hill, Victoria County Election Administrator, is following Texas law 100%. For me, I can’t think how to make voting easier than it is right now. For this election, we have early voting (in person) on April 19, 20, 21, 22, 23 at Pattie Dodson Health Center from 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM and April 26 and 27 at Pattie Dodson Health Center from 7:00 AM - 7:00 PM. If you are Over 65, Disabled, or Absent from the County), the last day to apply for Ballot by Mail is today, Tuesday April 21, 2021. The last day to register to vote for this Joint General Election was Thursday, April 1, 2021. The Joint General Election in Victoria County is May 1, 2021 from 7:00 AM - 7:00 PM. Any registered voter in Victoria County may vote on Election Day at any of 35 polling locations.

Back to early-voting yesterday. I pulled into the Pattie Dodson parking lot, found a parking space, put on my mask, walked inside, waited patiently in line, was called up to the election clerk, was asked for a photo ID, provided my driver’s license, was asked to state my name, the clerk verified my address, I was asked to sign a form, I was escorted to a voting machine, I was provided a long q-tip to make my selections, the machine prompted me to review my selections, and finally, the machine prompted me to cast my vote. I exited the building and started to make my way to my car. So easy. However, before I could reach my car I noticed a car pull up to the curb. A few moments later I saw an election worker (pretty sure it was Margetta Hill) come out to the car and take some paperwork inside. A few minutes later the election worker came out with what I assumed was the paper the voter signs. The election worker handed the women in the car a mobile voting machine for the women to cast her ballot. Amazing! Had I not stopped to watch the curbside process, I would have been in and out of the parking lot in 8 minutes. I realize many people stood in line for a longer period on November 3, 2020 (for myself 48 minutes), but it was my honor to do so. Besides, there were quite a few early-voting days as well as Vote by Mail.

Yesterday, Monday, April 19, was a little windy. No hurricanes, tornados, floods, or ice storms. I’m betting that the State of Texas, Victoria County, and our own Margetta Hill (Election Administrator extraordinaire) have many contingency plans in place for any Act of God or other situations that might occur on voting days.

This morning I took a moment to go to vctxelections.org and found a plethora of information for voters. I was especially excited to see the “ID Required for Texas Voters.” If you possess one of the following forms of acceptable photo ID, you must present it when voting in person:

*Texas Driver License issued by Texas DPS

*Texas Election Identification Certificate issued by Texas DPS

*Texas Personal Identification Card issued by Texas DPS

*Texas Handgun License issued by Texas DPS

*United States Military Identification Card containing your photograph

*United States Citizenship Certificate containing your photograph

*United States Passport (book or card)

If you do not possess and cannot reasonably obtain one of the above IDs, there are 6 other things you can do to vote in Texas. My goodness!

Mike, what exactly is the State of Texas trying to do to make voting “harder”. Please be specific.

Mike Gomez

Diana, on that same day I wrote a blog stating that I wasn’t implying that It was hard to vote in Victoria County...Despite the typo, I meant voting should easier not harder.I vote absentee and I am delighted did you getting my ballot on time...I was complaining about the larger cities. Sorry for the confusion

Diana Hawes

Well, my extremely long response was a reply to your still confusing response to the opinion piece you responded to (How’s that for a confusing response?). I did not read your blog, but once again you state in your April 20, 5:27 PM comment, “Despite the typo, I meant voting should be easier not harder.” Same thing you wrote, beginning with “Amen”. Then you wrote, “...I was complaining about the larger cities.” Just to clarify, are you complaining about larger cities in Texas, and just how is the State of Texas making it harder to vote in the larger cities? Be specific, please.

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