NEWS HEADLINES

No photo, no vote

By Brian Knox | Published Saturday, September 28, 2013

{{{*}}}If you plan to go to the polls to vote in the Nov. 5 general election, you’ll need to bring your photo ID.

For the first time, voters will be required to present a valid form of photo identification to cast a ballot. Previously, your voter registration card was all that was needed.

Photo ID was first required by a law passed by the Texas legislature in 2011. But a federal court in Washington ruled in 2012 that the law violated the Voting Rights Act, saying it would impose “strict, unforgiving burdens” on the poor – including racial minorities who are disproportionately more likely to live in poverty.

That ruling effectively blocked implementation of the new law, since Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act requires certain jurisdictions with a history of discrimination, including Texas, to get “pre-clearance” by the Department of Justice before any voting law can be implemented.

Then, earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision struck down Section 4 of the act – a section that determined which jurisdictions would be required to get “pre-clearance.” That meant lawmakers could not use the requirements that had been in place previously, and Texas’ new photo ID law could go into effect.

Texas moved forward to implement the photo ID law in spite of a Justice Department lawsuit claiming it violates other parts of the Voting Rights Act.

That means this fall, the law will be enforced at the polls.

“Basically the law says that if you vote in person, there are only seven acceptable forms of ID that you can use to vote,” said Lannie Noble, Wise County elections administrator. “Your voter certificate generally will not allow you to vote.”

Those seven forms of ID include:

  • Texas driver’s license
  • Texas election identification certificate (EIC)
  • Texas personal identification card
  • Texas concealed handgun license
  • United States military identification card containing the person’s photograph
  • United States citizenship certificate containing the person’s photograph
  • United States passport

Voters with a disability could apply with the county voter registrar for a permanent exemption if they meet certain requirements. Voters with a religious objection to being photographed, or voters who have lost their ID as a result of certain natural disasters, may vote a provisional ballot and must sign an affidavit within six days of the election at the voter registrar’s office swearing to the religious objection or natural disaster.

Noble said that he doesn’t think the new requirement will slow down the voting process and lead to longer lines. One issue that might be quite common, however, is the name on the voter rolls not matching the name on the photo identification. In that case, it is up to the election judge to determine if the name is “substantially similar.”

If it is, the voter will simply check a form stating they are who they say they are. Noble said this might affect women who may have a maiden name listed on the voter roll and a married name on the photo identification, or vice versa.

If the person does not have proper photo identification, they will still be allowed to vote provisionally. They will then be required to show proper identification to the county voter registrar within six days of the election.

The new law will likely affect the elderly who no longer drive and don’t have a driver’s license. Noble said while many elderly use mail-in balloting, which does not require photo identification, many still like to vote in person.

“We mailed packets to all of the local nursing homes with information and a letter that if you vote by mail, it doesn’t affect you. If you take a resident down to vote personally, … be aware they’re going to have to have either have the Texas ID or come by my office to apply for the exemption if they are disabled,” Noble said.

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In order to get an EIC, you must either already be a registered voter or fill out the voter registration form at the same time you apply for an EIC. The deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 5 election is Monday, Oct. 7. For information on registering, call the Wise County Elections Department at 940-626-4453.

For more information on the new photo identification law, visit wcmess.com/VoteID.

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