Thursday, April 03, 2008

Dead Voters -- in the Legislature

Most Americans who have ever worked a job that required them to "clock in" have been told that they could be fired for punching someone else's time card.

As a result, they might be surprised to know that rules and customs of the Texas legislature allow members routinely to cast votes for others on issues impacting millions of Texans. In 1991, one legislator cast three votes after dying earlier that day.

Rept Tony Goolsby (R-Dallas) proposes fixing the problem by installing fingerprint machines on the desks of members. That might be a good plan, but it unfortunately exposes the lack of honor among legislators. Simply banning the practice would mean that a person violating its provisions would be doing so in full view of nearby members and those in the gallery. Would that not be enough to dissuade them from doing so? Evidently not, given an evident desire to be able to appear to be present for sessions at which they are not actually present.

Instead of paying the estimated $400,000 for this technology, why not simply make casting a vote for another member a felony offense? Surely, that would slow down the practice? One also suspects it would garner considerable, though quiet, opposition. Legislators are accustomed to exempting themselves from the laws they pass, not creating strict requirements creating accountability.

Even Rep. Goolsby's proposal may turn out to be too much. The Oracle is guessing that in 2008 that legislators will publicly praise the notion of doing something, and that they will quietly allow the idea to die.

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