Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tarrant County Has Amused Me

I didn't think I would ever be amused by Tarrant County, but the world is full of surprises. Investigating their elections website for unrelated reasons and found that they had a "rumours" section. I expected Fleetwood Mac, but instead I got this:


RUMOR:
Is it true that voters who have unpaid traffic tickets can be arrested if they show up to vote?
FACT:
This is not true.  Section 276.005 of the Texas Election Code provides that a voter may not be arrested at a polling place or while going to or returning from a polling place except if the voter commits one of the following crimes on the day of voting:  treason, any felony, or a breach of peace.

That seems reasonable enough. Except for the treason bit. Not that I wouldn't want people arrested for treason, but it just seems a bit out of place. First off, treason is a federal crime, and elections are a state issue, but more than that, treason is one of only three crimes described in the Constitution (treason, piracy and counterfeiting) and has a very specific list of requirements. Only twelve convictions have ever been handed down (and one pending), so the fact that the state legislature would specifically carve that out is a bit particular.

Further, the very notion of someone who is actively seeking to destroy America going to a voting booth is slightly farcical. Unless we take the idea that everyone not voting for our candidate is treasonous, in which case we should be arresting everyone who walks out of the voting booth having voted for the wrong candidate. I rather suspect this latter proposal would have a great deal of support in Tarrant County.

Also, if you look down two subsections from the voter's privilege from arrest subsection, you see this:

Sec. 276.007.  STUDENT ELECTION AUTHORIZED.  (a)  An election for the participation of students in kindergarten through 12th grade may be held in conjunction with a general, special, or primary election as provided by this section.
(b)  A student election may be ordered by:
(1)  the commissioners court, for a student election held in conjunction with an election ordered by the governor or a county authority;
(2)  the governing body of a political subdivision, for a student election held in conjunction with an election of the political subdivision;  or
(3)  the county executive committee, for a student election held in conjunction with a primary election.
(c)  A student election may be held only on election day or the day before election day.
(d)  The authority ordering a student election shall specify in the order each grade that may participate in the election.  A student in a specified grade may enter a precinct polling place for the purpose of casting an unofficial ballot in the student election on the same offices and measures that appear on the official ballot.
(e)  The authority ordering a student election shall make the results of that election available to the public but only after the polling places are closed on election day.
(f)  The election officers serving in the official election may not serve in the student election.  The authority ordering a student election shall appoint a separate set of election officers to conduct the student election, supervise the participating students, and tabulate and report the results of that election.
(g)  Expenses incurred in the conduct of a student election, including any personnel expenses, may be paid only from private grant funds or donations.
(h)  The secretary of state shall prescribe any procedures necessary to implement this section and ensure that the conduct of a student election does not affect the proper and efficient conduct of a general, special, or primary election.
This particular section is full of miscellaneous provisions, so I don't think there is any additional context here. It looks to me as if the state has the authority (though I have never seen them do it) to hold a completely independent election in parallel with students as young as six on the same ballot as their parents, the results of which would be tabulated in parallel.

A) Who the heck came up with this and took the time to write it down and get it passed through the legislature.

B) This idea is such a wonderful combination of stupid and delightful that am I saddened that we don't do it and simultaneously glad we do not.

Anyway, the first time I read that I thought that the state was authorizing student council elections to be held alongside the November general elections in the voting places. Which was a terribly silly notion.

UPDATE: It occurs to me that Tarrant County did very little of the actual amusing here. Rather, it really just pointed me to the far more reliably hilarious Texas Legislature. Still, Fort Worth has so little going for it that it probably needs my compliments to prevent it from withdrawing into itself and eventually committing a depressing sort of suicide. On the plus side, the official abbreviation of Fort Worth is FTW. 

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