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Free Citizen

This writer espouses individual liberty, free markets, and limited government.

Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Latest On Texas Voter ID

It looks like tough sledding for the 2009 photo voter ID bill in the Texas legislature. I was mistaken in my earlier post about this being a constitutional amendment. Here's why a two-thirds vote is normally required in the Senate:

"... the so-called two-thirds rule, a [parliamentary] procedure that requires two-thirds of the senators present to agree to bring a bill to the floor for a debate and a vote. In the 2007 session, the Republicans had a 20-11 majority, one shy of the two-thirds needed to pass the controversial bill."

The Republican senators, with a current 19-12 majority, have made the Democrats mad by suspending the two-thirds rule for the 2009 voter ID bill, so that a simple majority is needed to send it to the Senate floor. Some are saying that the Republicans have shot themselves in the foot with this action.

The Republicans retort that, when the Democrats controlled the Senate, they occasionally exempted bills from the two-thirds rule.

The prospects for voter ID in the House don't look very encouraging. Despite a 79-71 Republican majority, the 2007 bill barely passed the House. Now the Republicans have a bare 76-74 majority.

This reminds me of the two-thirds rule that the Democrats had in the years prior to their 1936 national convention[1]. A two-thirds vote of the delegates was required to nominate the party's candidates for president and vice president. As a result, the Southern delegates had veto power, and multiple ballots would often be necessary before a presidential nominee was chosen.

The two-thirds rule is also why the Democratic vice-presidential nominee was frequently a Southerner: in exchange for the votes of Southern delegates, a presidential candidate would agree to name a running mate from the South. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's vice president from 1933 to 1941, for example, was John Nance Garner, a Texas segregationist. In 1944, when FDR was nominated for a fourth term, he nearly picked a South Carolina segregationist, James Byrnes, as his running mate (the two-thirds rule, to be sure, was then no longer in force).


[1] If memory serves, the Democrats adopted the two-thirds rule in 1832, the year that they held their first national convention, when they renominated President Andrew Jackson of Tennessee. They also elected another Tennesseean, James K. Polk, as president in 1844. Even non-Southern Democratic presidents had a substantial number of Southerners in their cabinets, and that's largely attributable to the two-thirds rule.


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