With the approaching apex of election season, debates over voting rights and procedures are certain to become vigorous. Last week on Houston Matters with Craig Cohen, I even managed to enter the fray with fellow panelists Russ Capper and Lisa Falkenberg over the issue. Russ stated that he is clearly in favor of Voter ID, while Lisa questioned the necessity of such laws when in person voter fraud doesn’t seem to be a problem. You can listen to the segment here if you’d like.
The main point that I attempted on the show was this… If Texas really cared about implementing an effective Voter Law, then they would help people to vote instead of hindering them.
On the issue, I agree more with Lisa’s position. There simply has not been sufficient evidence to prove that Voter impersonation is a problem. The cases of actual in person voter fraud are so miniscule that we’d have better proof to institute a ‘don’t climb on top of a lightning rod during a thunderstorm’ law to prevent people from getting struck by lightning. This is a problem that simply doesn’t exist.
Be that as it may, I’m not in total opposition to Voter ID laws in concept. But Texas’ law is specifically designed to disenfranchise certain groups of voters, while not providing sufficient resources to help them vote or obtain the proper ID. Alice Speri of Vice News has more on what makes Texas law so restrictive…
The voter ID law is not just discriminatory, Martinez Fischer said — it’s also very short-sighted.
He called Texas’ voter law the “most stringent, harshest voter identification legislation in the country.”
To put that in perspective, Texas’s voter ID law is seen as being more strict than Alabama’s — the state that successfully challenged part of the Voting Rights Act before the Supreme Court.
“Alabama is not exactly a hotbed of liberalism, but even their voter ID law is much, much more lenient and permissive than Texas,” Singh said. “In Alabama, you can use a student ID card, or a government card. In Texas, you can’t use a University of Texas ID. A state employee in Texas is not able to use his state government ID card.”
So a student photo ID, or government employee ID cannot be used to vote, but a concealed carry permit can? That’s nothing more than a veiled attempt to go after what the Republican Party assumes to be their “base voters” while making sure as many non-Republicans as possible get turned away, or are forced to cast a Provisional Ballot.
The only solution that Texas’ stringent law does provide is a new form of ID that can only be used for voting… the Election Identification Certificate, or EIC. These special IDs are “free” to those that qualify for them, but the birth certificate that you have to purchase before obtaining the EIC is at a cost. Another problem with the EIC system? Most people don’t know where to obtain them, and the Secretary of State isn’t helping to change that. But at least Democrats have noticed and are trying to broach the issue before election day. Here’s more from the Texas Tribune…
More than a week ago, Texas Senate Democrats put Texas Secretary of State Nandita Berry on notice: They wanted her office to get more mobile units on Texas streets to give voters without an acceptable photo ID a chance to get one before November’s election.
One week later, there’s been no movement to do so, says state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin.
The problem, he says, is that there are not one but two state agencies in charge of putting more mobile units out in the community. The Secretary of State’s office (SOS), which includes voter registration, has to coordinate where the mobile units will go. The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) actually owns the mobile units which can issue the new Texas election identification certificates, or EICs.
After trying to get the two entitites to agree on how to do it — and to do it quickly — Watson said late Tuesday that it “appears to me it is a breakdown on both ends.”
Under the state’s voter ID law, residents must present an acceptable form of photo identification for their vote to be counted. Acceptable photo IDs include Texas driver’s licenses or Texas ID cards that have not been expired for more than 60 days at the time of voting, U.S. passports, or military or U.S. citizenship certificates with photos.
Texas Republicans (more like TEApublicans… many don’t deserve to carry the label “Republican” anymore) have led the charge to adopt the nation’s most restrictive Voter ID law. They do this because they know that having fewer people vote gives them a better chance at maintaining power and codifying their fringe-Right ideology. For those out there that truly consider themselves to be proud ‘Texas Republicans’, the the Voter ID law should give them pause over what their party stands for.
For Texas Democrats, this is all the more reason to prove them wrong in 2014. If you haven’t volunteered to help get the word out about the changes to voting, please do so. Try as they may, the Texas GOP cannot hold the state back forever. In 2014, let’s make sure that the TEApublicans get to see what Texas really looks like.