Funny that MSNBC didn’t mention in its story that Lynne Messinger, a resident of Austin transplanted from California (and formerly of New York), is a left-wing progressive.
In any case, Ms. Messinger reports being “intimidated and freaked out” by the process of registering to vote in Texas.
Messinger, 62 and a musician, said she brought her birth certificate to a Texas’ Department of Public Safety (DPS) office in south Austin Thursday in an effort to get a voter ID. She needs one because Texas’s strict ID law doesn’t accept out-of-state driver’s licenses.
Messinger said she spoke to a clerk at the desk, and explained that she had a California driver’s license. She has houses in both California and Texas and goes back and forth between the two, but decided several years ago to switch her voting residency to Texas.
The clerk left for a few minutes, then told her to take a seat. At that point, Messinger said, a state trooper summoned her into his back office, saying he needed to speak to her. Once inside his office, Messinger said the trooper insisted on seeing all the documentation she had brought, and demanded to know where she lives and pays taxes. He even told her she could be jailed for driving with a California license.* It is illegal to drive in Texas on another state’s driver’s license 90 days after moving into the state.
“It was like a Nazi interrogation about how I can’t be driving with a California ID,” Messinger said. “I was completely intimidated and freaked out.”
The trooper denies threatening jail or arrest during the conversation, according to Summer Blackwell of the DPS. Blackwell said DPS was willing to reach out to Messinger to help her obtain a voter ID.
I’m inclined to believe the trooper here, but we must let Messinger have the last word about her state of mind:
As for Messinger, she said though she might not vote this year, she’s not taking it sitting down. “I will do everything it takes to do something about what’s going on here, because this is crazy,” she said. “I’m 62 years old. I’ve been voting for a long time, and this is just bulls***.”
Talk about a target-rich environment.
I’m sure many readers can weigh in with anecdotes. As someone who changed residency to California in 2004, I can confirm that California won’t let you reside here with an out-of-state license either. To register to vote, I had to get a California driver’s license, and the only reason I didn’t have to produce a birth certificate was that I had a military ID.
Moe Lane at RedState points out that Maryland won’t let you reside there with an out-of-state license either — and that MSNBC had to correct its original story, which started out casting doubt on whether it is, in fact, illegal in Texas to reside there without getting a Texas driver’s license. It is illegal to not get a Texas license, if you’re going to establish residence in Texas. MSNBC seems to have simply accepted Ms. Messinger’s indignation about this as evidence that the rule must have been a bogus obstacle placed in her way by officious, voter-hating DPS employees.
But that’s just the mechanical, letter-of-the-law side of things. Then there’s the spirit of the law. Why does Texas have a voter ID law? Well, partly to prevent people who have residences and pay taxes in California, and who might very well be voting there if they still have California driver’s licenses, from also voting in Texas.
Let’s revisit that striking line from the MSNBC story:
She needs [a voter ID] because Texas’s strict ID law doesn’t accept out-of-state driver’s licenses.
Er…which state does accept out-of-state driver’s licenses for voting? Name one. Go ahead, we’ll wait. You can’t, because it doesn’t work that way. There’s no state in which you can register to vote (or prove your identity for voting) with an out-of-state driver’s license. This is because an out-of-state license indicates that you live — and therefore have the connections of voting bona fides — out of state. If you can vote without getting a local license, it’s because you don’t need to have or show one at all in that state.
There are federal employees who get stationed outside the states where they have driver’s licenses, and who register to vote where they’re stationed, without changing residency. (Many of them just continue voting in their states of residency, by absentee ballot.) But they don’t register where they’re stationed by showing their out-of-state driver’s licenses. They’re allowed to register outside of the states that issued their driver’s licenses because they can produce federal-employee IDs.
It might almost seem like Lynne Messinger wrote the story in the third person, without doing even the most cursory research, and MSNBC published it as-is. The alternative scenario is that MSNBC was so eager to publish a damning tale about registering to vote in Texas that its reporter, Zachary Roth, failed to do his due diligence.
Then, of course, there’s the obvious point that both MSNBC and Ms. Messinger probably believe that you should be able to wander in anywhere in America and vote, without having to go through any process that verifies who you are, and at least minimizes the chance that you’ve already voted elsewhere 3-4 times that day.