Former House Speaker Jim Wright gets ID to vote

Posted Monday, Nov. 04, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Former U.S. House Speaker Jim Wright will be able to vote in Tuesday’s elections.

The 90-year-old, who was unable to get a voter ID card Saturday at a local Department of Public Safety office because he didn’t have the proper paperwork with him, went back Monday and tried again.

The legendary Texas political figure was able to get a state-issued personal identification card because his assistant dug through boxes of records at his office until she found a certified copy of his birth certificate, which was one of the pieces of ID needed.

“I never anticipated anything quite so elaborate with the requirements,” Wright said Monday afternoon. “I do believe I have qualified myself to vote.

“And I am indeed going to vote.”

Not casting a vote would have been very upsetting to Wright, who has voted in every election since 1944.

“I am worried a bit it might be discouraging to regular citizens,” he said.

Other officials — such as gubernatorial candidates Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican, and state Sen. Wendy Davis, a Fort Worth Democrat — experienced minor snags with the law.

In both cases, the candidates had to sign an affidavit to let them vote because the names on their driver licenses and voter certificates were slightly different but “substantially similar.”

Differing opinions

Since the Star-Telegram reported that Wright was unable to get a voter ID card Saturday, some Texans have criticized the priority of that news.

“You have to put this in context,” said state Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington. “Millions of people are losing their health care as a direct result of Obamacare. On the other hand, statewide, we’ve had less than 100 people even try to get those (election) IDs because they don’t have a driver license.

“We did what every other nation did, require photo ID to vote,” he said. “All of a sudden, we have a front page story about Jim Wright not getting ID? Did Jim Wright read the newspaper when we passed the Voter ID bill in 2011? People have had two years to get a photo ID.

“When you look at millions of people losing their health insurance because of Obamacare, ... what’s having the greatest impact?”

At the same time, U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, said he is “appalled” to learn that Wright had difficulty getting the ID he needed to vote.

“Speaker Wright dedicated his career to opening doors and fighting for equality for people of all races, religions, political backgrounds and affiliations,” Veasey said. “Speaker Wright was denied the voter identification card merely because he had an expired driver’s license and because his faculty identification from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, where he teaches, doesn't meet voter identification requirements under the state law enacted in 2011.

“This is yet another example of how the strict Voter ID law will place an undue burden on many Texans and result in fewer eligible voters casting ballots.”

Getting to vote

Wright, a Fort Worth native, is a former state legislator and mayor of Weatherford who served in the U.S. House from 1955 until he resigned in 1989.

He said he is glad he will be able to vote today.

He said he had assumed his expired driver license, which he still keeps in his wallet, would work for the election. After it expired in December 2010, Wright said he didn’t bother to renew it “because my eyes aren’t as good anymore.”

He said it had been a long time since he saw a certified copy of his birth certificate, which is why he had hoped the photocopy he took Saturday would have worked.

And normally, he said he wouldn’t have left this issue to the last minute.

“Ordinarily I would have gone and voted early,” he said. “But I got so darn busy doing other things and I forgot to do it. I realized on Saturday that I had allowed time to pass and probably didn’t have current photo ID.”

Now, though, he said he has a temporary version of his personal ID card — a piece of paper with a photo they took at the DPS office of him Monday — that will allow him to vote in Tuesday’s election.

“Everything is fine,” he said.

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

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