King Joins Coalition Asking Secretary of State for Strict Voter Identification Requirements

December 4, 2007

Weatherford Democrat

Phil Riddle

A group of Texas legislators, including Weatherford’s Phil King, have asked the Secretary of State to re-evaluate current voter identification criteria.

In a letter sent late last week, the group of lawmakers, representing the Texas Conservative Coalition, requested Secretary of State Phil Wilson take steps to implement more stringent proof of citizenship requirements before casting a ballot in Texas.

“It has been state policy to simply accept an applicant’s mere assertion of United States citizenship,” the letter states. “That policy has always been unacceptable, but it is time that it is scrapped.”

The letter writers contend thousands of illegal votes have been cast statewide by voters not legally allowed to vote.

“Each non-citizen who votes cancels out the vote of a citizen, leading to voter disenfranchisement,” Texas Conservative Coalition members wrote.

The 13 lawmakers who signed the letter also ask the Secretary of State, as the state’s top election official, to aggressively deal with anyone voting illegally.

“Every effort should be made to prosecute those individuals who have knowingly made false statements on voter registration applications,” the letter reads. “Texas should not continue to rely solely on the jury duty mechanism to catch and purge foreign nationals from our voting rolls.”

Specifically, the coalition asks Wilson to implement a plan for voter identification before the November 2008 general election to identify new registrants as United States citizens. The group suggests the Secretary of State’s office use and cross-check data available from the Bureau of Vital Statistics, and federal data bases including the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements list and the Employment Eligibility Verification Program.

District 61 Rep. Phil King, (R) Weatherford, said he hopes the letter spurs Wilson to action.

“What we’re hoping is he’ll come up with his own initiative,” King said. “One that, hopefully, won’t require legislation.”

Wilson spokesman Scott Haywood said the Secretary of State has not received the letter from the Texas Conservative Coalition, so he could not comment specifically on its contents.

He added Wilson will follow the guidance of the Legislature.

“If they decide we need more or better means of identification, we’ll do that,” Haywood said. “We’ll do whatever is necessary to maintain the integrity of the elections system in Texas.”

King filed House Bill 626 last spring in the 80th Legislature hoping to put teeth into current identification and citizenship statutes pertaining to elections.

“I thought it was a no-brainer,” King said. “I was called a bigot and called out for trying to limit minority voting rights. There was a bitter fight on the floor of the House.”

He added the voting went almost exclusively along party lines, but the measure did pass the House. However, the bill did not get enough support in the Senate to get a hearing.

The letter writers assert voter fraud tied to growing numbers of illegal aliens is becoming a problem across Texas.

“There is a ballot crisis brewing,” their epistle states, “citing testimony of Harris County Tax Assessor/Collector Paul Bettencourt, who told the United State House of Representatives Committee on House Administration that he identified 35 foreign nationals who either applied for or received voter registration documents in 2005. According to the letter, Bettencourt’s office has canceled registration cards for non-citizenship for 3,742 voters since 1992.

The Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute reports in Bexar, Dallas, Tarrant and El Paso counties, almost 3,000 voters were removed from registration rolls for non-citizenship.

“I have 6,500 names of people who are on the voter registration rolls and should not be,” King said. “We know there are tens of thousands in the state.”

King said he began looking at Texas voter registration criteria after the Carter Baker Commission came back with suggested federal guidelines two years ago.

“I was astounded at the depth of the problem,” he said.