Need an ID to Vote? Easier Said Than Done

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In the debate over mandatory photo ID requirements in Texas and other states across the country, it has been argued that obtaining a valid form of ID, even when offered for free, places no undue burdan on voters. In fact, last month in questioning by the three judge panel hearing the appeal of Texas' Voter ID law, the state's attorney John Hughes said that “people who want to vote already have an ID or can easily get it,” even if they have to drive a hundred miles in rural Texas to get to the nearest available office to file their paperwork to obtain some form of ID.

The reality of the logistics involved in obtaining an ID to vote (to solve a voter fraud problem that doesn't exist) is that it effectively taxes the hundreds of thousands of Texans who would have to get one to vote under the GOP's plan.

That reality came into clear personal perspective this past month in my own attempts to get a TX Learners Permit to (finally) drive a car. Even as an active voter (I haven't missed an election) and someone who has ready access to multiple other forms of ID, I had to make two trips to successfully complete this task. Below is a list of all the associated costs involved in obtaining this ID, and mind you, this is for an informed person who lives in an urban area near an appropriate office- not someone who has to make another 100+ mile roundtrip because they were missing one part of the application.

  • $4 in Cap Metro Bus Fare- 2 round trips to DPS office
  • $60 in Lost Wages- Two 3-Hour waits in line at DPS + Travel Time
  • $26 ID Fee- Potentially $0 if TX funds free IDs with Dewhurst Deficit Dollars

That's $90 of real world costs to me. And that doesn't count the costs for other forms if ID that I presented- $135 for an Adult Passport or $16 for a TX ID. And that doesn't count the costs of having Cable/Internet and Utilities from which I had to produce stubs to verify my address.

On this latter point I ran into problems that would be more difficult to solve because they require a voter to be able to afford and pay for certain services. Even though I have a bank account (which plenty of lower income folks do not), my credit union doesn't have online statements and I, living in the digital age, have minimized the number of paper statements I receive across the board. That nixed that as an option to provide evidence of living at my current address via a bank statement. Having recently moved, I am no longer the person on record at my address for the utilities (which were set to electronic draft) so it was more luck than skill that I happened to have a couple stubs with my new address on them forwarded from when I shut down the accounts at my prior address. I could have used a Voter Registration card but even if I had submitted a change of address the day I moved in, the County would still be processing it until mid-August.

Needless to say, it was far more difficult to piece together all the needed documentation than I expected. And that's without any additional people waiting in line with their appropriate paperwork at the last minute before the voter registration deadline when there isn't any room for error and tempers get heated.

Anyone who says that a process anywhere close to this isn't an “undue burdan” on voters is telling you a lie. And anyone who tells you that it's not a poll tax because they can make IDs available for free does not live in this reality.  

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Former Publisher & Owner of the Burnt Orange Report. Political Thinker, Digital Explorer, and Time Traveler.

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