Update 2:06 p.m. Thursday August 29: Good news! Council voted 7-0 to go ahead with the Voter ID resolution, including the education component and an exploration of legal options. Thanks to all who voiced their support!
Tomorrow, the Austin City Council will consider an ordinance that has serious ramifications for the unconstitutional photo voter ID law currently on the books in Texas.
Agenda item #74, sponsored by Council Member Bill Spelman and co-sponsored by Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole and Council Member Mike Martinez, would instruct the City Manager to engage in voter education about the new ID requirements, and also consider legal action on the behalf of Austin's citizens.
Dallas County already voted to join a lawsuit filed by Congressman Marc Veasey and other plaintiffs against the voter ID law. The Department of Justice has also filed a lawsuit against the voter ID measure. The law was previously blocked by the Voting Rights Act for having a disproportionately negative impact on minority voting access. Once section 4 of the VRA was struck down, AG Greg Abbott instructed the State of Texas to enforce the law.
More below the jump, including the text of the resolution and why this is so important. The proposed ordinance, which includes a provision for joining the legal action against Texas's photo voter ID law in some fashion, reads as follows:
BE IT RESOLVED BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF AUSTIN:
That the City Manager is hereby directed to pursue legal remedies to protect Austin citizens' voting rights through appropriate participation in these lawsuits on behalf of Austin's citizens.
The City Manager is further directed, as these lawsuits are processed, to work together with other jurisdictions, including but not limited to the Travis and Williamson County Clerks, Travis and Williamson Counties, the Travis and Williamson County Tax Assessor-Collectors, Austin Community College, and others as appropriate to educate citizens about the identification requirement and to direct them to where they can get identification. Further, the City Manager should assess the potential for any city assistance with actual provision of identifications to citizens, e.g providing locations for provision of IDs, and to consider financial participation with the other jurisdictions to assist with education efforts.
The City Manager is also directed to use all resources already available to the City to help educate citizens, including but not limited to inserts in utility bills, social media, the City website and Channel 6.
It is critical that Austin stand up against the voter ID law by every means necessary. The education component is critical, as our local government must do everything possible to mitigate the disenfranchising impact of this law, which was written to target minority voters in Texas.
It is just as critical that the City of Austin look to engage in legal action to block this law from coming into effect. Austin is supposed to be a progressive bulwark against the backwards, discriminatory policies emanating from the Legislature.
Right now, the council needs to hear from the people of Austin so they know that this is a priority.
If you raise your voice in support of voting rights, you will strengthen the City Council's commitment to engage in this fight against the Republicans' discriminatory voter ID law. Please send an email and let them know where you stand.