Sunday, December 11, 2016

Review of Texas Voter ID and alternatives

Last week Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton were rebuked by U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos for continuing efforts to suppress minority votes. In 2011 the Texas legislature passed SB 14 which is widely considered the most onerous voter ID bill in the nation. According to that legislation a photo ID is required to cast a ballot in person and there are only 7 acceptable forms of government issued ID. State university or college IDs are not among those listed as acceptable and there are about 50 counties in Texas without a single office that issues an acceptable photo ID.

At least for the election in November if you don’t have any of the 7 photo IDs, you can sign a sworn statement that there is a reason why you don’t have any of those IDs and show one of the following alternatives: a valid voter registration certificate, a certified birth certificate, a current utility bill, a government check, a paystub or bank statement that includes your name and address or a government document with your name and an address (original required if it contains a photograph).
In June of 2013, Congressman Marc Veasey sued the state of Texas claiming that SB 14 is discriminatory and the suit took three years to wind its way through courts. In July of this year a majority of the 15 judges sitting on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeal, the most conservative federal appeals court in the nation, agreed that the Texas Voter ID law violates the Voting Rights Act by disenfranchising minority voters. The Appeals court referred the lawsuit back to the federal judge presiding over the case to work out a solution with the state.

The presiding judge then worked with both the state and the parties suing to craft an acceptable way to loosen the restrictions on acceptable forms of ID and inform potential voters of the changes in time for the election. The state agreed to spend $2.5 million to educate voters. Unfortunately the state chose to ignore the judge’s ruling on the settlement and used language that suggested little or nothing had changed when in fact there are now many alternative documents that are acceptable if the voter doesn’t have one of the 7 government issued photo IDs.

Weeks later Judge Gonzales Ramos found Texas’ voter education campaign is using misleading language which is likely to discourage eligible voters from going to the polls. The judge then issued a ruling instructing Gov. Abbott and Attorney General Paxton to use exactly the language she provided without alteration. In a fit of pique Ken Paxton has appealed to the Supreme Court so he can continue to waste taxpayer money, $3.5 million to date.

This election if you don’t have one of the 7 forms of photo ID listed in the original bill just bring one of the alternatives like your electric or water bill and sign the affidavit so you too can exercise your right to vote for the candidates of your choice. And if you think that’s the way it should be from now on; be sure to vote for Hillary Clinton so she can appoint justices to the Supreme Court who recognize that your right to vote is what makes America great.

Published in the Seguin Gazette September 30, 2016

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