Texas DPS Checking Warrants For Folks Requesting Free Voter ID's

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The Texas Department of Public Safety was running checks for outstanding warrants on individuals who came seeking free Voter ID's, according to reporter Bud Kennedy.

The process — that DPS announced has now apparently been halted — raises even more concerns about implementation of the photo voter ID law that will require all voters to show additional photo identification in addition to their voter registration card to be able to cast a ballot.

Senator Rodney Ellis sent a letter (available here) to DPS Director Steve McGraw today questioning the process. In a press statement, Ellis said, “I know that the legislature tasked DPS with a very difficult job. But Texas has a long and sad history of making it difficult for people to vote, so we've got to be extremely careful with how the voter ID law gets implemented. I can't stomach asking an eligible voter to face the threat of arrest in order exercise their right to cast a ballot.”

Catch up on DPS's recent string of deeply problematic behavior below the jump and find out what ID you need to vote.The leadership at DPS hasn't been doing the department any favors lately.

During the special session, DPS confiscated tampons from women visiting the Senate gallery, and claimed to have confiscated “jars of feces and urine,” which ended up not being true, or (at best, and it's a stretch) at least impossible for them to prove. Troopers were also caught performing illegal roadside cavity searches of women's genitals. And most recently DPS Director Steve McGraw refused to apologize for a DPS officer who shot and killed two innocent, unarmed men from a helicopter.

Now, DPS seems intent to interfere with every American citizen's right to vote.

The policy to run a warrant check on individuals seeking a free ID in order to vote suggests that the department specifically wanted to deter certain individuals from accessing the documents they need to enfranchise themselves. DPS is supposed to issue the ID's at no cost, but this policy could well serve as a greater deterrent to anyone who already can't afford to pay for an ID.

Such a policy would have the most significant impact on the very low-income Texans who can't afford an ID, and may well not be able to afford outstanding traffic tickets or parking fines. In the United States we don't bar people from voting if they have outstanding warrants. And given the individuals that the criminal justice system disproportionately targets, it's clear that this policy — like so many others in Texas — would again cause the most harm to minorities and low-income individuals.

Forcing individuals to pay for an ID in order to vote is a poll tax. Offering said individuals a free ID but proffering the threat of arrest in the process doesn't really make it much better.

Dissuading individuals from procuring the ID they need to vote with the implicit threat of arrest isn't just wrong, it runs against everything this democracy is supposed to stand for. Shame on you, DPS, for even considering such a policy and attempting to come between voters and their right to cast a ballot.

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For more information on what you need to vote, check out GotIDTexas.org and make sure you're ready to cast your ballot this November.

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About Author

Katherine Haenschen

Katherine Haenschen is a PhD candidate at the University of Texas, where she studies political participation on digital media. She previously managed successful candidate, issue, voter registration, and GOTV campaigns in Central Texas. She is also a fan of UCONN women's basketball and breakfast tacos.

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