There have been only two cases of voter impersonation in the past ten years in Texas. To prevent a third case, Republicans have passed a law that will prevent over half a million registered Texans from voting. What makes it worse is that they knew how many people would be disenfranchised.
In 2011, Republican lawmakers requested information from the Texas Secretary of State and Department of Public Safety regarding how many registered voters did not have state-issued photo IDs. The answer was at least 504,000 and potentially as many as 844,000. But that didn’t stop them.
According to the Texas Tribune, “Republican state officials working to pass a voter photo ID law in 2011 knew that more than 500,000 of the state’s registered voters did not have the credentials needed to cast ballots under the new requirement. But they did not share that information with lawmakers rushing to pass the legislation.”
David Dewhurst was one of them. According to an elections official, “Lt. Gov. Dewhurst was aware of the no-match list results showing 678,000 to 844,000 voters being potentially disenfranchised.”
Even though the voter ID law has been ruled an unconstitutional poll tax, it will still be in effect for this election cycle because the Supreme Court determined that the ruling was close enough to the election to be disruptive.
As a result, people who have lived in Texas their whole lives and never even left the state are not able to vote. The Guardian tells the story of Eric Kennie, who is 45 years old and has never left Austin. But he doesn’t have a driver’s license (he doesn’t have a car), a passport, a military ID, a handgun license or a citizenship ID. So that leaves him the option of a photo ID known as an election identification certificate, which means he needs to fork over other things he doesn’t have – like a DPS-issued photo ID and a birth certificate. His photo ID is more than 60 days expired. And the name on his birth certificate didn’t match his current name because his mom was married to someone else when he was born, and changing it would require hiring a lawyer. Since Kennie makes $15 – 20 per day by recycling cans and bottles, he doesn’t have that kind of cash to spare.
Kennie is not alone. Black voters are three times as likely as white voters to lack the identification they need under the new law. For this election cycle, stories like Kennie’s will be the reality for hundreds of thousands of Texans.
Last week we covered everything you need to know to vote in Texas. For too many Texans, it may be too late to get the necessary identification. But the rest of you know what you need to do.