Texas passed a strict voter photo ID law in 2012, but in August of that year a federal court rejected Texas’ voter ID law, calling it “the most stringent in the country,” as well as that state’s highly discriminatory redistricting maps.
Blatantly, in 2013, on the very day the Roberts Court struck down the preclearance provision, Texas Republican Attorney General (now Governor) Greg Abbott said the state would immediately enact the same voter suppression laws that a federal court had rejected only a year earlier.
Texas’ now‐unrejected photo ID law requires voters to present a state‐approved photo ID.
Prior to passage, mail, utility bills, or other proof of voter registration was deemed adequate. But the new law likely will affect Democratic voters disproportionately, and of course, that is the point. As ProPublica noted, the state’s own findings had shown Hispanic registered voters – who tend to vote for Democrats – were far less likely than white Texans – who overwhelmingly vote Republican – to have the sanctioned photo IDs. But that isn’t all. The new law also requires the name on the voter’s photo ID to match the name on the state’s voter rolls, which can be a problem for married women and others with name changes. (Note: studies have found that most cases of alleged voter fraud are due to clerical errors often resulting from name and address changes.) And, as the Washington Post noted, “it turned out to be a problem for Mr. Abbott, too, who goes by ‘Greg Abbott’ on the voter registration rolls and by ‘Gregory Wayne Abbott’ on his driver’s license. Under a provision of the law added by Democrats, which allows a voter to cast a ballot if the versions of his or her name are substantially the same – Mr. Abbott was ultimately allowed to vote — but only after he was made to sign an affidavit.” The law’s “chilling effect” on voting is clear.
One famous Democrat had a bit more difficulty. Jim Wright, a former Speaker of the U.S. House, who at age 90 no longer drives and has no valid driver’s license, was prevented from voting. It seems poll workers rejected his Texas Christian University faculty ID along with his voter registration card, which has no photo. Mr. Wright was told he would have to obtain a certified copy of his birth certificate to get an official, state‐issued ID before he could vote!
If that can happen to a former House Speaker, a man who was third in line to the Presidency, what do you think will happen to thousands of “regular” Texans? Of course, that is the Texas Republican strategy. As the Washington Post put it: “The new law, passed by the GOP‐ dominated state legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Rick Perry, masquerades as a tool to combat election fraud. In fact, as in other states that have enacted similar measures, there is no statistically significant — or even insignificant — evidence of in‐person fraud at the polls in Texas.”
A number of states soon followed Texas’ lead, including: Virginia, South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Iowa, Indiana, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Tennessee, North Carolina, Florida, South Dakota, and, sadly, Wisconsin. As you read the summaries that follow, you will see that some courts are burdening the plaintiffs with extensive evidentiary requirements. Ask yourself the question: should we be passing this kind of legislation to begin with or trying to expand voting rights?