Reaction to reinstatement of the Texas Voter ID Law drew opposite reactions from Johnson County’s Democratic and Republican chairmen.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on June 25 announced the state would immediately begin enforcing the act, which requires voters to present valid, state-approved identification to vote.
Abbott’s announcement followed a Supreme Court ruling that retained Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, but overturned Section 4.
Section 5 requires Texas and all or part of eight other states to get pre-approval on changes to voting plans or districts. Section 4 addresses the formula for getting such preclearance, which dates to the 1960s. The court’s ruling leaves Congress to develop a new formula.
The Texas Voter ID Law, passed by the Legislature in 2011, was ruled unconstitutional by a federal court in Washington, D.C. That court ruled that the law showed intentional discrimination against minorities. The ruling barred Texas’ ID requirement during the 2012 elections.
The Supreme Court’s June ruling, however, overruled the Washington court’s earlier ruling.
The status of Texas’s Voter ID Law remains unsettled, however, thanks to a federal lawsuit filed by U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, and others.
The plaintiffs to the suit argue that, despite the court’s ruling on Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, it remains unconstitutional to require voters to have to show state-issued identification.
The Texas Department of Public Safety announced June 25 that they will begin issuing Election Identification Certificates to Texas residents without an acceptable form of photo ID. Applications for EICs will be accepted at all state DPS driver’s license offices.
The EICs are free of charge and may be used for voting only, but not for personal identification otherwise.
EICs are available to residents who do not already have:
• A Texas driver’s license unexpired or expired less than 60 days.
• A Texas personal identification card unexpired or expired less than 60 days.
• A U.S. passport book or card unexpired or expired less than 60 days.
• A Texas concealed handgun license unexpired or expired less than 60 days.
• A U.S. military identification with photo unexpired or expired less than 60 days.
• A U.S. citizenship certificate or certificate of naturalization with photo.
To qualify for and EIC, applicants must be:
• A U.S. citizen.
• A Texas resident.
• Eligible to vote in Texas. Must show a valid voter registration card or submit a voter registration application when applying for the EIC.
• Be 17 years, 10 months or older.
EICs remain valid for six years although there is no expiration for residents 70 or older. Residents with a permanent disability may apply with their county voter registrar for a permanent exemption for the photo ID requirement.
Too much, or just right
Proponents argue that the law should stem voter fraud and help ensure one vote per person. Opponents argue the law targets minorities in efforts to suppress the votes of those likely to vote Democratic and further argue that voter fraud arguments are Republican charades offered to ensure such aims.
Johnson County Republican Party Chairman Henry Teich said the free availability of voter ID cards negates any Democratic-based concerns.
“I don’t see how it’s onerous if it’s a free service,” Teich said. “This helps make sure it’s that person’s vote and not someone else’s. That’s the whole point. It’s the craziest argument I’ve ever heard. In the big picture we strive to have just and fair elections where everyone who is eligible to vote can and those who are not can’t.”
Johnson County Democratic Party Chairman Bill Conover said the free availability of identification helps, but still presents a burden.
“That’s great if you have a way to get there,” Conover said. “But what if you can’t drive or don’t have a driver’s license or don’t have transportation. Cleburne has no mass transportation. This is still the same Republican playbook of targeting the same groups, elderly, minorities and the poor, who are more likely to vote Democratic in an effort to keep them away from the polls.”
Conover said the JCDP will work to ensure that all county residents eligible to vote but do not have a valid ID get an EIC.
“We’ll do what we can to get people to the DPS if we have to offer rides or whatever it takes,” Conover said.
Conover added that the law should include other forms of identification such as school IDs.
Teich called voter fraud a serious problem and said he saw or heard about numerous instances of voter suppression and fraud while working on behalf of Mitt Romney last year in Philadelphia during the presidential election.
“You didn’t see any Romney signs because of the [onerous rules] to put them up,” Teich said. “But you saw Obama signs plastered all over the union halls, which they have one about every two blocks. I also heard people bragging about how many times they voted.”
Teich said that, during his time as an election judge, he recalls the name of a friend who passed away several years earlier remaining on the voter rolls for several election cycles.
“Nobody ever tried to use his name to vote that I know of,” Teich said. “But it would have been easy enough to do, and he certainly wasn’t the only deceased person still on the rolls.”
Conover balked at such charges.
“There’s no evidence of voter fraud on a large scale past a few prosecutions across the country every couple of years,” Conover said. “Where are their statistics and proof?”
Conover said the Supreme Court got it wrong and should instead have applied Section 4 and 5 to the entire country.
“Look at Florida, who’s not covered by the Voting Rights Act,” Conover said. “There are all sorts of examples there of attempts to suppress voter turnout and target minorities. Every state should be covered by the Voting Rights Act.”
Teich turned the claims of Republican attempts to suppress voter turnout around.
“I think the goal of the left, and I use that term in a ballpark fashion, is to have an uneducated voter group they can control,” Teich said. “Someone they can manipulate and keep dependent on them where Republicans would rather put money in your pocket and provide opportunities for you to be independent of government influence. I welcome any educated voter because I think an educated voter is more likely to vote Republican.”
Both agreed Veasey’s suit may affect implementation of the law. Conover hopes it does, and Teich hopes it doesn’t.