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Voters need to bring photo ID to the polls

Posted Tuesday, Sep. 03, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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More information Don’t have a valid photo ID? You may get a free election ID certificate from the Texas Department of Public Safety. For more information, call the DPS at 512-424-2600, visit a driver’s license office where applications are available or go online to www.dps.texas.gov.

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Area voters heading to the polls this week for a tax ratification election need to bring something extra with them: a photo ID.

On Saturday, residents in the Eagle Mountain-Saginaw school district will become the first local voters required to show a photo identification card to cast a ballot.

“We’ve not had any problems here,” said Steve Raborn, Tarrant County’s election administrator. “In early voting, a couple of people have showed up only with their voter registration certificate. But they went back home or out to their car and came back with their photo ID.

“Around the state, there have been a few other elections and no major problems. But I don’t think any of these elections have had big turnouts.”

Come November, all Texas voters will be showing photo ID if they want to vote because of a law passed by the Republican-led state Legislature two years ago that has been tied up in the courts ever since.

Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has cleared the way for photo ID requirements to go into effect, despite Democrats claiming the measure will disenfranchise some voters, all Texans will have to follow the law to vote. Other lawsuits have been filed to stop Texas from implementing the new law.

Legal battles

After the Supreme Court ruling, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is running for governor, quickly said the law would go into effect immediately.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that voter ID laws do not suppress legal votes but do help prevent illegal votes,” he said. “Voter IDs have nothing to do with race, and they are free to anyone who needs one.”

U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, disagrees and has been among those fighting these requirements.

“It's a sad fact that year after year, minorities in Texas are shown over and over again that we cannot depend on Abbott to protect our voting rights,” he said. “And again, he is also spending the dollars of hardworking taxpayers to implement and wage court battles to uphold this discriminatory law.

“My question for Abbott is simple, ‘At what point do you stop?’”

Acceptable IDs

Voters — whether in November’s election or the Sept. 7 Eagle Mountain-Saginaw school district election to weigh in on raising the ad valorem tax rate to $1.67 per $100 valuation — have several options to choose from in showing picture identification cards.

They may show a Texas driver’s license, personal identification card, election identification certificate, concealed handgun license, military ID, U.S. citizenship certificate that has a photo or a U.S. passport, according to the Texas Secretary of State’s office.

But the identification must be up to date or have been expired no more than 60 days.

“The greatest impact might be on seniors — people who no longer drive or perhaps are in an assisted-living home or nursing home,” Raborn said. “They may have some photo ID but it may be expired. They may be surprised at this.”

Raborn said his office will be reaching out to area nursing homes and assisted-living facilities to make sure voters know about this new requirement before the November election. And he notes that anyone voting by mail would not have to show a photo ID.

‘Common sense’

If someone shows up to vote and doesn’t have a photo ID, they may cast a provisional ballot. But to make sure that vote is counted, they’ll have to take a valid photo ID to the elections office within six days after the election.

And Raborn said voters shouldn’t worry if there are small differences in their name from a driver’s license, for instance, to a voter’s registration card.

“If there’s a minor difference because someone changed their last name, it’s not going to be a problem,” he said. “We are supposed to look at the totality of the circumstances. Maybe I’m Steven on my driver’s license and Steve on the voter registration.. That’s going to be OK.

“The bottom line is we have to use a little bit of common sense,” he said. “If it’s obviously the same person, that person gets to vote.”

Anna Tinsley, 817-390-7610 Twitter: @annatinsley

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