Changing Timestamp Mystery Continues After Texas Abortion Bill Defeat, Wendy Davis Filibuster

Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, staged a marathon filibuster Tuesday night that lasted long enough to delay the vote on a Texas abortion bill after the midnight deadline of the special session. While the end of the filibuster was chaotic, one of the biggest controversies surrounds the changing timestamp of the vote.

The timestamp change could be a criminal matter, notes the Moderate Voice. As Davis’ filibuster near the midnight deadline, Sens. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, and Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, took on the Republican attempts to cut her off. Gov. Rick Perry had ordered a special session of the Legislature and included the abortion bill, Senate Bill 5, to the items to be voted on by the House, and the session expired at midnight.

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The abortion bill passed the House early Monday and was scheduled to be voted on by the Senate on Tuesday. Democrats were able to successfully block a motion to vote on the bill ahead of Tuesday and then Davis announced her plans to filibuster.

The filibuster lasted 12 and a half hours, but there was still time before the midnight deadline for a vote to pass the abortion bill into law. With live blogs and other outlets covering the filibuster there was enough confusion that some initially reported SB-5 was passed by the Senate just before the deadline, notes Gawker.

Interestingly, as live blogs tracked every detail of the filibuster, there was a clear change in the timestamp recording the vote. As Becca Aaronson of the Texas Tribune tweeted out, the timestamp was changed from 06/26/2013 to 06/25/2013. The website for the Texas Legislature continues to show 06/25/2013 as the last update of SB-5. The live blog by the Dallas Morning News also noticed the changing timestamp.

The timestamp change from 06/26 to 06/25 would have indicated the vote on SB-5 occurred before midnight, and therefore valid. After a meeting behind closed doors that lasted until 3 a.m., Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst conceded the vote was not cast in time and the abortion bill was defeated. Despite his admission, the timestamp has not been updated and the initial change could be a crime.

Timothy Burke, an editor for Deadspin, provided the statute discussing tampering with government documents. In Sec. 37.10 of the Texas penal code detailing penalties involving perjury and other falsification it states, “A person commits an offense if he knowingly makes a false entry in, or false alteration of a governmental record.”

On the Moderate Voice, Kathy Gill, a technology policy analyst, details the timestamp change as it happened on the Legislature's website. According to Gill, the page is automatically created from a database and any change in the timestamp would have to occur within the database itself, which indicates a “deliberate” change. It remains unclear if the timestamp change on the vote on the Texas abortion bill will be investigated.

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