The Great North Houston Vote Suppression Raid: A cautionary tale for Nevada

There’s a cautionary tale here.  It really does make a difference who controls the offices of the state Secretary of State and who holds the post of State Attorney General.  If the following information isn’t convincing, I’m not sure what might be. 

Five days ago, Texans were reminded of a raid by police officers in protective gear sweeping into a house on the north side of Houston. It wasn’t a drug raid.  The officers displayed a search warrant and then removed computers, hard drives, and documents.  These weren’t related to any money laundering schemes – they were the property of “Houston Votes,” a voter registration effort.  Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s delegation of investigators said they were after evidence of voting fraud.  And the result?

“The investigation was closed one year after the raid, with no charges filed. But for Houston Votes, the damage was done. Its funding dried up, and its efforts to register more low-income voters ended. Its records and office equipment never were returned. Instead, under a 2013 court order obtained by Abbott’s office, they were destroyed.” [DallasNews]

The case included all the usual elements, a fervid Tea Party agitator, Catherine Englebrecht of the King Street Patriots, film clips from Fox News about the New Black Panthers, rumors of the organization being “worse than ACORN.”

The justification offered by Attorney General Abbott after the initial Dallas News story,  was that he didn’t know about the investigation at the time. [DallasNews]   A full on raid? Protective gear? Guns drawn? And the man ultimately in charge of this fiasco now can only say, “I trusted my aides?” There were more allegations of unjustified interference from Abbott’s office.

“The Houston Votes case is not the only one of its kind, though it’s unclear how often Abbott’s office investigates allegations similar to those levied against the group. In response to requests from The News, the attorney general’s office provided a list of 637 potential violations of the Elections Code referred to Abbott since he took office in late 2002.

Strickland (Abbott spokesperson) said he could not say how many were investigated or how many involved alleged voter registration fraud.” [Star Telegram]

In short, those 637 hardly constitute an “epidemic” of voter fraud as declared by Abbott in 2006.   So, what does this tale say in terms of Nevada’s upcoming vote?

The Republican candidate for Secretary of State, the person in charge of Nevada’s elections, is Barbara Cegavske, who has made her position clear.  She’s in favor of the photo ID requirements which have been used in states like Texas and North Carolina to suppress voting by Blacks and Hispanics:

Cegavske said that if elected in November she would consider introducing a voter ID bill during the 2015 legislative session if no lawmaker proposes a similar bill. Such measures have repeatedly failed to pass the Democrat-controlled Assembly and Senate, however.

“We need to have something that everyone feels secure about,” Cegavske said after speaking to about 40 people attending a breakfast for Hispanics in Politics, an influential Latino community group. “I don’t want to disenfranchise anybody, but I don’t know anybody who doesn’t have identification.”  Cegavske said that even if people don’t drive they usually have other ID they use to get Social Security checks or food stamps or for other programs that require photo identification.”  [LVRJ]

Her statement couldn’t make it much clearer about whom she’s referring when discussing who might not be able to register to vote.  Cegavske’s opponent is Kate Marshall who has not made these kinds of statements.  The Nevada Democratic Party made its position on Senator Cegavske crystal clear:

“The only way to ensure the integrity of our election system is to keep Barbara Cegavske as far away from the Secretary of State’s office as possible,” said Nevada State Democratic Party spokesperson Zach Hudson.  “Cegavske’s rhetoric today might endear her to extremists in the TEA Party, but the reality is she is a career politician who has spent her time in the legislature killing ethics reform, blatantly abusing tax dollars and trying to suppress people from voting.”

Putting ingredients such as Tea Party + Voting + State Office Holder together is precisely what generated the debacle in Texas.  Cegavske, is indeed, a solution in search of a problem, and most definitely isn’t the best candidate for the office of Nevada Secretary of State.  (See also: Fodder and Folderol]  For that matter, she certainly doesn’t need to be teamed up with “Train Wreck” Adam Laxalt in the AG’s office.

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