OPINION COLUMNS

When William isn’t Bill: A primer on voter ID for the primaries

By Ollie Besteiro | Published Saturday, March 1, 2014

”If you’re gonna vote in Texas, you gotta have a valid ID.”

Maybe it’s not quite as catchy as the classic hit by the band Alabama, but it’s just as true as needing a fiddle in your band. In fact, it’s the law. With primaries coming up Tuesday, now is a good time to revisit the recent voting requirements for Texans.

Before you head to the polls, there’s one important thing to make sure you carry with you in addition to your political opinions – an approved form of photo identification. Not just any photo ID will work, so make sure yours is OK before heading out.

Acceptable forms of ID include a Texas driver’s license or personal ID card issued by Department of Public Safety or a United States passport.

To avoid additional voting requirement issues, your ID must be current, and the name on it must match the name on the official list of registered voters. If your ID meets those requirements, happy voting.

Let’s say your approved form of ID is expired; can you still vote? As long as it expired no more than 60 days ago, it will not prevent you from voting. If your ID is more than 60 days expired, you can still cast a ballot, but it’s provisional. You’ll then have six days to show the county voter registrar’s office a current, approved form of ID or your ballot will be tossed out.

Another important point to keep in mind is that the name on the ID must match the official list of registered voters, or it will cause further complications with the voting process. Just ask Texas District Judge Sandra Watts who had to sign an affidavit last November swearing that she was who she said she was in order to cast her ballot.

This incident was caused by a provision in the voter ID law that states the name on the ID must be “significantly similar” to the name on the registered voter list. This can become a problem if you change your name, like many people do when they get married or divorced.

You may also be required to sign an affidavit if your name has a common variance such as William and Bill. Your ID might say “Bill,” but the official list of registered voters could have “William” on it instead, or vice versa.

Also bear in mind that you should keep addresses current on your ID and voter registration card because election officials may use it as one component in deciding whether or not a name is “significantly similar.”

Some older Texans and their families may have concerns about being able to vote without an approved form of ID. This law does not affect Texans who have a “permanent disability exemption” from their county registrar.

To receive such an exemption, you must submit an application with written documentation of the disability from either the Social Security Administration or the Veteran Affairs Department. In addition, you must state that you do not have a valid form of identification.

With a little preparation, you can be sure your experience at the polls won’t resemble a tragedy in a country music song. Remember these “little” requirements when heading to the polls – and you can exercise your right to vote in a way that ensures it will count.

For information, visit www.votetexas.gov or call 1-800-252-VOTE (8683).

Ollie Besteiro is the president of AARP Texas and a member of the organization’s all-volunteer board.

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