The Dallas Morning News
Republican voters statewide can sound off on illegal immigration in the March 4 primary election.
Besides choosing state and local candidates, voters will cast ballots on three nonbinding resolutions. Early voting begins Tuesday.
The first measure asks if local, state and federal officials should be required to enforce U.S. immigration laws "to secure our borders." Given the ongoing uproar over illegal immigration, the outcome seems pretty clear.
"I would be shocked if it didn't pass," said Kathy Ward, chairwoman of the Collin County Republican Party.
The second referendum, also related to illegal immigration, calls for legislation to require voters to show photo identification.
The third item is unrelated. It would require state and local governments to limit annual budget increases to the sum of the population growth and inflation rate.
A vote for the immigration referendums may let people register their frustration with current immigration policy and its enforcement, or lack thereof. But the measures won't cause any immediate change.
State Republican officials put the items on the primary ballot in hopes of influencing future legislation. Mandy Tschoepe of Plano is on the State Republican Executive Committee, which drafted the wording of the referendums.
"We generally look at things we believe the base of the party holds pretty dear," Ms. Tschoepe said. "It gives us a big stick to take to the Legislature. We can say, 'Ninety-two percent of Republican primary voters think a voter ID in order to vote is an important issue. Let's get it done.' "
Both the Republican and Democratic parties have used nonbinding referendums for decades to gauge public sentiment.
The Democrats have no measures on this year's primary ballot. But in 2006, the Democratic ballot included an item on raising the minimum wage. Almost 89 percent of primary voters said it should be increased.
In 2006, the Republican ballot had four referendums, including two almost identical to this year's items. Measures to require a photo ID to vote and another to limit government spending passed with almost 90 percent of the vote. Voter ID legislation then failed in the 2007 legislative session.
Illegal immigration has become an emotional issue. Locally and nationally, some residents are calling for tighter restrictions on illegal immigrants and their rights, while others urge peaceful co-existence.
Collin County Commissioner Jerry Hoagland said he received e-mails supporting his stance against using public funds to provide health care to illegal immigrants. He said he got more feedback on that issue than any other during his 28 years of service.
"I think it's on the top of a lot of people's minds," he said.
Texas legislators are now studying an Oklahoma illegal immigration law that's considered the nation's toughest. People who shelter or conceal undocumented immigrants can be charged with a felony under the law passed last year.
Ms. Ward said the two primary referendums, if approved by wide margins, will help influence legislators to crack down on illegal immigration.