Tuesday, October 12, 2010

No such thing as a "throw away" comment.

If there's one thing I've learned in almost 7 years* of blogging about local politics and local politicians: There's not such thing as a throwaway line, or something said truly in jest.

For example:

(Ballot for Harris County is larger than ever, Chris Moran, ChronBlog)
The ballot is so long that it requires 61 cents to mail in your vote. Harris County Democratic Party Chairman Gerry Birnberg joked, "We're real close to a poll tax here."

(Ed. - Emphasis mine)
It seems like a throwaway line and, in any other context, it might be. But this is a political figure representing a party that's already involved in a lawsuit against the current Republican Tax Assessor-Collector.

If things don't break the way Birnberg wants them to, (and judging by the polling numbers, they're not going to) is it much of a stretch to see the cost of postage being tacked on as an issue? Not as a stand-alone of course, (you'd be hard-pressed to convince anyone that 61¢ is onerous) but as a part of a larger plan to suppress the poor and minority vote by Republicans?

I sure can.

Proving Republican malfeasance has long been a goal of the Harris County Democratic Party, just as proving voter fraud has been a goal of the other side. Much of it I believe to be political theater, there have been many charges that have been proven false, but there are real voter irregularities out there that should be investigated. As always, the object of voting rules and processes should be to maximize the number of legal votes, while minimizing the number of illegal votes. I doubt seriously that a large ballot is a part of that, nor do I believe Birnberg** seriously believes this is "getting close to a poll tax", but I wouldn't be surprised to see it appear in the challenge documents of a close race or two. This is politics after all, and some campaigns hold on to anything they think might give them an edge.

*As hard as it is to believe, Isolated Desolation began publication in October 2003

**As a matter of fact, I really do believe Brinberg was joking, just as the article says he was. In the throes of desperation comments originally spoken in jest find their way into serious political discussion.

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