Monday, November 4, 2013

New Voter ID Rules in Texas

by Bill Holmes

Tuesday, November 5th will be the first election day held under the new voter ID laws in Texas. Several other states will also begin enforcing more stringent ID requirements for voters. In previous elections in Texas you needed a voter registration card (no photo) OR a valid ID and be on the voter rolls at the poll. Now you must have a voter registration card or be on the voter rolls AND a valid photo ID. The name on the registration card must exactly match the one on the ID. If they differ but are “substantially similar” you must sign an affidavit swearing to your identity. There are many reasons the names may differ. Perhaps a middle name is left off one ID or a full name is used on one and just an initial on the other. Maybe a name suffix like Jr., II, or III is on one and not the other. Maybe it's just a typo. The most common discrepancy will probably involve women's married and maiden names.
Texas Voter Registration Card
If the poll workers determine the names are not “substantially similar” the voter will be allowed to cast a provisional ballot. They must then provide supporting documentation to the voting registrar within six days such as a divorce decree or marriage license. If the registrar approves the documentation the vote counts, if not the ballot is discarded. 

Since early voting has already been taking place problems have shown up. Ironically one of the new laws biggest proponents, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, had mismatched names on his IDs and had to sign an affidavit. He had his full name, Gregory Wayne Abbott on one and just Greg Abbott on the other. Abbott is currently running for governor. The irony continued when his gubernatorial opponent, Wendy Davis, ran into the same problem. She had her maiden name as a middle name on one ID and not the other. 

In another instance former US House of Representative Speaker, Jim Wright, went to the DMV to get one of the new free voter photo IDs because his drivers license was expired. I suspect it was allowed to expire because the 90 year old Mr. Wright doesn't drive anymore. Well, his drivers license was too far expired for him to get the new voter ID. He has since found additional documentation so on a return trip to the DMV he got the ID. The state has been advertising about how easy it would be to get one of these photo voting IDs, They were absolutely free and they had extended hours at the DMV offices so everybody who needed one could get one.
Former Speaker of the House - Jim Wright

There were a few other reported cases of prominent citizens having problems at the polls or trying to obtain a photo ID.  

The laws allow a few of the normal forms of photo IDs such as a drivers license, military ID or passport. Of course this being Texas you can also use your concealed handgun license. I'm not sure if you are allowed to actually carry your firearms into the polls.

The Republican controlled Texas legislature that passed this law contends that this will reduce voter fraud. The fallacy of that argument is that voter fraud is not really a problem. Only a handful of voter fraud cases have been uncovered in the nation. It apparently is not a crime in Chicago or the numbers would probably be higher but still not a Texas or national epidemic. This is another example of our government fixing a problem that doesn't exist while ignoring the real issues. These laws along with gerrymandering make it easier for Republicans to be elected. 

Let's be honest, this is another backdoor tactic by Republicans to reduce the number of minorities and poor who can vote. If they knock out the elderly and a few women that's probably OK too. Who is least likely to have a drivers license, passport or gun permit? That would be the poor and the elderly. The BS that you can get a free photo voter ID doesn't fly either. If you don't have the proper documentation to get a drivers license you can't one of the new IDs either. The "free" part is only for the piece of paper (plastic). It still costs time to stand in line, maybe having to take unpaid time off work. It costs to get to the DMV. The closest DMV office to where I live has no public transportation access. That means a ride from a friend, a relative or a taxi. 

The Texas law is currently being challenged but the courts allowed it to be enforced while that process takes place. Maybe the plaintiffs lawyers can call Gregory (aka Greg) Abbott to testify about his experience at the polls.  

Several states have new photo ID laws and most are being challenged. I suspect this will eventually wind up at the US Supreme Court. Will the laws ultimately be found constitutional or will they go the way of the old poll tax laws? 

What mayhem will there be at the polls on Tuesday's election? There has been plenty of confusion during early voting. That's with limited voting locations and small numbers of voters. Tuesday there will be many more polling places, more poll workers and of course more voters. Will “substantially similar” mean the same thing to all poll workers and at all polling places? This is not a huge statewide election year, that happens in 2014, but there are local elections and several state propositions. I'll give an update when the dust settles later this week. Good luck at the polls, you may need it.


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