Photo ID may not be necessary or provisional ballot may be given to those with no ID
By Elsa Maxey
The Texas Voter ID law that would affect Fort Bend County and Texas voters in the 2012 upcoming elections may not come to pass. It was sent to the governor for his signature by the state legislature when it met this past year, and he signed it into law. Up until this week, the measure was believed to go into effect. But on Monday, the U.S. Justice Department put it on hold, and reportedly said in a letter sent to the state that it may disproportionately harm Hispanics.
Gary Gillen, a Fort Bend area political consultant says “one needs valid identification to fly and cash a check.” He also believes the voting rolls should be equally protected.
The truth of the matter, however, is that Senate Bill 14 from the state legislature, although signed into law, cannot be enacted until it has federal level preclearance.
Fort Bend County Elections Administrator John Oldham said that until then, voters going to the precincts will do what they have done in the past. “This (the state law) cannot be put into effect,” and Oldham also said the halt was no surprise. From the time the law was passed, “the state has been asked to provide statistics that don’t exist,” he said.
The situation at this point is under review and there’s a lawsuit that was filed in Washington in hopes of getting the go-ahead to enforce the photo ID requirements in Texas.
Gillen reminds us that “one of the most precious rights we have is electing our government officials.” As it stands now, the state law under question requires that when registered voters living in Fort Bend County and others across the states go to the polls, they must have one of seven acceptable forms of photo IDs issued by the state or federal government, including concealed carry handgun permits. For those who do not, they would be given a provisional ballot. This means they could still vote. But, the ballots would only count if voters were to bring an approved ID to the registrar’s office within six days of the election, according to the Texas Secretary of State website.
Fort Bend County is considered one of the state’s largest counties and it shows 314,895 registered voters. Of the estimate of those in the county who may lack a driver’s license or state-issued photo IDs, the number ranges from as low as four to 17 percent as the high estimate, documented by reported data.
According to the Justice Department, even using data most favorable to the state, Hispanics disproportionately lack either a driver’s license or a personal identification card. Of the Justice’s Department to block Texas, Gillen said he believes “this is simply another example of the Obama administration’s efforts to harm Texas, a state that did not support him.”
In the end, the burden is on Texas to prove that the Voter ID law will not interfere with minorities’ ability to vote. South Carolina is also being challenged for its voter ID law. Both Texas and South Carolina are among 16 states needing clearance from the Justice Department or a federal court in Washington for redrawing district lines or changing election procedures due to a history of voting rights violations. Oldham said that even if an entrance to a voting poll is changed, that must undergo preclearance.