Running scared? Attorney general frowns on voter-turnout efforts

Some Texas elected officials seem more worried about increased voter turnout in the upcoming elections than they are about the shortcomings of state education policy that have many prospective voters so upset. Case in point:  State Attorney General Ken Paxton, prompted by a request from Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston), has issued a nonbinding, advisory opinion suggesting that educators could be violating state laws by encouraging students and colleagues to go vote. But the Bettencourt request and the Paxton opinion both focused on an issue—use of public funds to support specific candidates or causes—that is not even presented by the generic get-out-the-vote effort that these two elected officeholders frown upon.

That would be the Texas Educators Vote campaign to create what backers call a “culture of voting.” The group supports public education, not specific candidates or ballot propositions, as noted in today’s Austin American-Statesman by the group’s director, Laura Yeager.  “Our work focuses on strengthening democracy by encouraging educators to vote and model civic engagement for students,” she said. Yeager added that the Bettencourt request and Paxton’s quick response “appear to be a political stunt intended to intimidate the hundreds of thousands of Texas educators from voting.”