Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

Perry promise meter grows by one, on voter ID

Gov. Rick Perry answered questions in February from the Austin Tea Party Patriots and others.

In this age of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, keeping up with everything a governor says isn't easy. And recently, we discovered a promise made by Texas Gov. Rick Perry during last year's campaign season that had escaped our attention before last week's launch of the Perry-O-Meter, the PolitiFact Texas device for tracking how Perry's pledges shake out.

On Jan. 20, Perry designated "legislation to require a voter to present proof of identification when voting" an emergency item for this legislative session. The same day, an Austin American-Statesman news article quoted his spokeswoman Catherine Frazier as calling the issue "unfinished business from last session." In 2009, Texas House Democrats doomed a Senate-passed voter ID proposal by slowing debate on other measures until it was too late in the session to bring it up.

"The governor talked about it throughout the campaign and promised voters he would make it a priority again," Frazier told the Statesman.

We hadn't noticed that.

But Frazier pointed us to an answer that Perry gave Feb. 10, 2010, as part of the Austin Tea Party Patriots' "2010 Virtual Gubernatorial Debate Between Rick Perry and Bill White," the Democratic nominee whom Perry beat last year. The "debate" consisted of a series of YouTube videos of Perry and White giving answers to the same questions. The video was posted online July 28.

One of the questions was about voter ID: "How do you intend to lead as governor and encourage the Texas Legislature to avoid last session's stalemate and instead pass a solid Voter ID bill?"

Perry began his answer with a caveat: "I don't think a governor ... can force the Legislature to do anything."

Later, he noted the proposal's failure last session, calling it a missed opportunity to protect "one of the most important privileges that we have in this country," and said "a small group of activist legislators, mostly Democrat if not all Democrat," opposed it.

Then Perry said: "One thing (lawmakers) do understand and that is the governor has the ability to keep them in town until they address some issues." We take that as a reference to the governor's power to call a special session on the topic of his or her choice. Perry continued: "So I guess I might as well put them on notice today: We're going to do voter ID in 2011. We can either do it early, or we can do it late. Their call."

Ba da bing! That's a promise to ensure legislative action on the voter ID issue.

So we've added it to the Perry-O-Meter and marked it as "In the Works." By designating the issue an emergency item, Perry effectively put it on the fast track, allowing the Legislature to take it up within the first 60 days of its 140-day session.

The Texas Senate was debating legislation as we posted this story.

Later, we'll gauge how Perry's pledge to get a voter ID measure played out.

Final note: We suspect there are more Perry promises that we have yet to discover. See something we've missed? Let us know at politifact@statesman.com.