Bud Kennedy

No photo ID? Yes, you can vote — but Texas wants a good excuse

If you have a passport, driver’s license or handgun license expired less than four years, you need it to vote. If you don’t have any of that at all, there’s an affidavit to sign.
If you have a passport, driver’s license or handgun license expired less than four years, you need it to vote. If you don’t have any of that at all, there’s an affidavit to sign. AP

Do you understand exactly what ID it takes to vote beginning Oct. 24?

Neither did I.

I thought I knew. I thought if you didn’t have a current passport, driver’s license or handgun license for this election, you still could show a voter registration, bank statement, bill or something that says, “that’s me.”

Turns out it’s not that easy.

If you have a photo ID, then dig it out and bring it.

Otherwise, your vote will only be “provisional” until you come back to a county office and prove your identity.

Yes, the very next person in line might not have a photo ID at all. But that person’s vote counts right away, if that voter signs an affidavit called a “Reasonable Impediment Declaration” claiming no reasonable way to get a photo ID.

The form requires voters to pick a reasonable impediment, including:

▪  “Lack of transportation.” (It’s a long way to the driver’s license office in some counties.)

▪  “Lack of birth certificate or other documents needed.” (This is where many senior voters needed help, particularly if a driver’s license expired. Also, old licenses now work until four years past the expiration date.)

▪  “Work schedule” or “family responsibilities.” (Hmm.)

▪  “Lost or stolen” or “applied for but not received.”

In other words, if you’ve never had a photo ID, then you’ll need a cover story.

And if you have a photo ID but didn’t bring it, then you’re in for more red tape that somebody who never had an ID.

Don’t try reading a government website to understand all this. At least, not without an election lawyer on retainer.

One reader emailed me a suburban city newsletter with the news item “Photo ID Required … You must now present one of the following forms of photo ID.”

No. That’s still published on some pages of the VoteTexas.gov website, but it’s no longer accurate. A federal judge ordered state officials to fix that.

(That debate also involved adding the word reasonable, to make sure voters didn’t think they had to jump hoops.)

I think the Tarrant County Republican Party also might be mixed up.

A party email this week screamed “ALERT *** EMERGENCY VOTER FRAUD INFORMATION … Democrats will do everything they can to buy, steal, and cheat … We want to make sure OUR VOTER ID LAW IS FOLLOWED.”

“Our” 2011 voter ID law was ruled racially discriminatory by a very conservative appeals court and sent back to a lower court for more work.

(Whether or not you agree with that ruling, parts of the law didn’t make much sense. There is absolutely no reason a clear driver’s license photo should be excellent identification until the day it expires, but then completely useless as an ID for the next election afterward.)

If you really want to get confused, try reading the Texas Secretary of State’s website or asking at the courthouse. It took several emails last week to clear up exactly which votes count, when and how.

Just get it right by Oct. 24.

Bud Kennedy: 817-390-7538, bud@star-telegram.com, @BudKennedy. His column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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