This year’s election is not a real test of Texas’ voter ID law

Posted Wednesday, Nov. 06, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Editor’s note: The content of this editorial, first posted Oct. 28, has been changed to reflect updated information about the number of Texans who have none of the accepted forms of voter ID.

Tuesday’s statewide election on constitutional amendments, coupled with some local bond and school board contests, is being regarded by some as a referendum on Texas’ new voter ID law, hailed by Republicans as the best method to fight voter fraud and condemned by Democrats as another form of voter suppression.

While figures from the secretary of state’s office show early voting results are much higher than in the constitutional amendment elections in 2009 and 2011, the number of voters this year will be but a fraction of those expected to turn out in the 2014 general election, which will include a hotly contested gubernatorial race.

Because of that, it is impossible to measure by this election what kind of impact the voter ID law — one of the strictest in the country — will have on citizens.

As Tarrant County Elections Administrator Steve Raborn points out, amendment and bond elections tend to draw frequent voters compared to general elections, which attract more infrequent and first-time voters.

The requirement to present a photo ID when voting in person has presented a problem for some people, particularly married women, whose names on their driver’s licenses may not be exactly identical to the ones on the voter registration rolls. The secretary of state’s office said no one has been kept from voting because of that, but people are being asked to initial an affirmation that he or she is the same person who is registered.

A three-judge federal panel in Washington, D.C., said last year that some Texans lack all permissible forms of required voter ID. The judges rejected testimony estimating the size of the group. A later Supreme Court ruling allowed the voter ID law to go into effect.

The Department of Public Safety has opened offices on Saturday to issue free election identification certificates (EIC). The department also partnered with the secretary of state to send mobile stations to neighborhoods throughout the state to issue the certificates.

Halfway through the early voting period, only 88 people had been issued EICs across the state, DPS Press Secretary Tom Vinger said. More than 1,300 inquired, but Vinger said most of them already had proper IDs for voting.

Individuals can use one of six photo IDs at the polls: Texas driver license (unexpired or expired no longer than 60 days at time of voting); Texas personal identification card; U.S. passport book or card; Texas concealed handgun license; U. S. military identification with photo; or U. S. citizenship certificate or certificate of naturalization with photo.

Texans can get an EIC at any of the more than 220 driver license offices during regular business offices and at selected offices from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

With an expected low voter turnout Nov. 5, officials didn’t foresee any major problems in this first statewide election since the new law went into effect.

Assuming the courts allow the Texas ID law to stand, it won’t be until this time next year that we’ll know whether it is a major burden.

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