Bill White Supported Lawsuits – And Legislation – To Limit Military Participation In Local Elections

June 1, 2010

Hidden Taxes Day 86: Liberal trial lawyer hiding his past anti-military effort

As liberal trial lawyer Bill White continues to hide his income tax returns for 86 days and counting, he is also hiding his past anti-military efforts.

“Though he continues to hide his tax returns, liberal Bill White cannot hide the truth about his efforts to restrict the voting rights of men and women of the armed forces,” said Texans for Rick Perry spokesman Mark Miner. “Bill White should come clean and apologize for supporting lawsuits and legislation that would have made it harder for military men and women serving overseas to fully participate in the democratic process.”

In March 1997, as Chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, White supported frivolous lawsuits filed by two Democratic candidates in Val Verde County who claimed that approximately 800 mail-in ballots cast by military members caused them to lose their November 1996 elections. At the time, “White said military voters are entitled to have a say in the races for federal offices – president, vice president and the Congress – but not in state, county or local elections.” [1]

Weeks later, White defended partisan legislation that military advocates warned “would sharply restrict voting rights for Texas armed services personnel stationed elsewhere.” [2]

The restrictions, included in an amendment sponsored by Rep. Hugo Berlanga, passed the Texas House on April, 30, 1997. The next day, the Houston Chronicle published the article, “Bill would deny military personnel vote in local elections,” describing the anti-military legislation. (Full article below) [3]

SOURCES:

[1] “Democratic leader supports voting suit,” San Antonio Express-News, March 7, 1997; “Bosnia war hero chides White over military voting,” Houston Chronicle, 5/28/10, http://blogs.chron.com/texaspolitics/archives/2010/05/b...

[2] “Bill would deny some military votes in local elections,” Abilene Reporter-News, 5/4/97, http://www.texnews.com/local97/milvote050497.html

[3] “Bill would deny military personnel vote in local elections,” Houston Chronicle, 5/1/97

“Bill would deny military personnel vote in local elections”
Houston Chronicle - May 1, 1997
By R.G. RATCLIFFE and KARA ALTENBAUMER

AUSTIN - Military personnel without a Texas address would be stripped of their right to vote in state and local elections under a bill tentatively approved by the House on Tuesday on a highly partisan 72-62 vote

"They must be a resident of the county to get a local ballot and vote in a local election," said Rep. Hugo Berlanga, D-Corpus Christi, who sponsored the measure.

The legislation was filed in response to allegations that up to 70 percent of the 800 absentee military personnel who voted in local Val Verde County elections last year were either not registered or were on the suspended registration list. Two Hispanic Democrats lost to Anglo Republicans in races for sheriff and county commissioner.

Under current law, when military personnel register to vote in a county while serving at a military base in Texas, they are eligible to receive their federal election ballots from Texas no matter where they are stationed.

When elections clerks in Val Verde County received such requests last year, they also sent the military personnel full local and state ballots, leading to allegations of vote fraud.

A heated debate broke out Wednesday in the House as Berlanga successfully tacked onto a routine elections bill his amendment to prevent a repeat of the Val Verde incident.

Under Berlanga's amendment, military personnel would automatically receive ballots in federal elections from the Texas Secretary of State's Office.

But if they want to vote in local elections, they would have to prove to local elections officials that they are eligible residents of the county with a local mailing address, they must register to vote, and then they must specifically request an absentee ballot.

Berlanga's measure also would allow military personnel's mail-in ballots to be counted up to 10 days after a general election and four days after a primary election.

Berlanga insisted his amendment was not an attempt to restrict military voting. He said about half of the military personnel stationed in Texas are registered to vote here and can participate in local elections.

"I could care less about Val Verde," Berlanga said. "There were some military people who voted (in Val Verde), and they were registered voters."

But Rep. Suzanna Gratia Hupp, R-Lampasas, whose district includes Fort Hood, fought the amendment. She portrayed it as an effort to disenfranchise military personnel.

"We've basically told them (military personnel) that their vote does not count here," Hupp said. "We're going to use them to protect other countries' freedoms, but don't expect them to vote here."

Hupp said she supported allowing military absentee votes to be counted after election day to protect the rights of overseas personnel. But she said the local residency requirement for local elections would prohibit many military people from voting in state and local elections.

The bill also would allow eligible voters out of state during an election to vote by fax and electronic mail. The measure faces a final vote by the House before it goes to the Senate for debate.

One Republican and 71 Democrats voted for the bill. One Democrat and 61 Republicans voted against the bill.

A lawsuit challenging the Val Verde election set off a partisan national debate earlier this year. U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, called for the impeachment of a federal judge who signed an order to keep the Republicans from taking office until the lawsuit is settled.

One of the Republicans, county commissioner-elect Murry Kachel also drew attention because he was once a member of the Ku Klux Klan. In the midst of the fight, Kachel withdrew from his election to office.

In Val Verde, some of the military once stationed at Laughlin Air Force Base near Del Rio voted even though they had not lived in the county for more than 10 years.

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