After the Supreme Court's decision on the Voting Rights Act, Texas was able to go forward with the Voter ID Law. As the Texas Tribune reports, the law creates a free form of ID specifically for those who do not have one of the six acceptable forms of ID. This was meant to address the concerns about creating a greater burden on low income Texans who may not be able to afford the fees associated with getting the photo ID required by the law.
According to the Tribune, only six of these free ID's have been issued since the law went into effect. Supporters of the Voter ID law see this as proof that most people already have one of the six acceptable forms of photo ID necessary to vote. Those who say the law disenfranchises low income Texans are worried that this low number of ID's issued instead points to the difficulty of obtaining this new Election Identification Certificate, or EIC.
Under the current Voter ID law, there are six forms of photo ID that will be accepted at the polls:
- Concealed handgun license
- Citizenship certificate with a photo
- Personal identification card
- Driver's license
- Military ID
If someone does not have one of these six forms of photo ID, they are eligible to apply for an EIC from the DPS.
More on the Voter ID Law below the jump. In order to obtain an EIC, you must visit the DPS in person and bring proof that you are either registered to vote or a voter registration application and proof of ID, along with the Application for the EIC.
Proof of identity for the state of Texas requires either one primary document, two secondary documents, or one secondary document and two supporting documents.
This seems straightforward enough, but the list of primary documents is almost identical to the list of acceptable forms of photo ID for voting. No one applying for the EIC will have a primary document, otherwise they would not be eligible to apply for the free voter ID.
The list of secondary documents is short:
* Original or certified copy of a birth certificate,
* Certificate of Report of Birth for citizens born abroad, or
* an original or certified copy of a court order.
If you do not already have these things in your possession, it can take both time and money to either find an original or go through the process of getting a certified copy from the state.
There are far more options for supporting documentation, such as a Medicaid card or Texas vehicle registration or title. These are documents that the average Texan is much more likely to have on hand, but you must have one of the secondary identity documents in order to apply for an EIC.
Once you have all necessary forms of identity documentation, you still have to take the time to go to the DPS for the application process. For someone working to support a family on minimum wage, this can be incredibly difficult.
The difficulties presented in obtaining the appropriate photo ID are only the beginning of the problem with this Voter ID law. How many Texans are well-informed enough to understand exactly what this Voter ID law means for them?
There is plenty of misinformation already circulating around about this law. For example: many people believe that the address on your photo ID must match your voter registration card. According to the Frequently Asked Questions about Voter ID on the Vote Texas website:
The new requirement makes no determination on voter address matching criteria; therefore, there is no address matching requirement.
Going into the 2013 November elections and the 2014 general election cycle, we are facing an information deficit among Texas voters. This law places obstacles in the way of the average voting Texan who may not know that their voter registration card is no longer enough to be able to vote.
Empower the Vote TX is a great resource for those with questions about the Voter ID law, as well. It spells out the impact of the law, what identification you need, and how to get it if you don't have it. But how many voting Texans will even know that they need to find out this information?
The Tribune article also mentions that around 50 people have called DPS offices with questions about the EIC. This number is as troubling as the six issued ID's if it is a measure of awareness about the changes in voting requirements for voters in Texas.
Voting is not just a privilege, it is a right. Without a rigorous voter education program focused on the implications of this new law, many Texans will find that this right is out of reach on November 5th.