One of the great indignities in the Republican legislature’s photo voter ID law is the implicit determination of who should have an easier time of voting based on the allowed ID’s. Case in point: while concealed handgun licenses are allowed, student IDs with photos are not.
State Representative Terry Canales (D-Edinburg) has introduced a bill, HB 295, that would remedy this situation by explicitly adding “a student identification card issued by a public or private institution of higher education that contains the person’s photograph” to the list of acceptable election identification. Read the text here.
The most just course of action would be to repeal a law that Republicans knew would disenfranchise over 500,000 Texans and that has been ruled by a federal judge as an unconstitutional poll tax. However, given the Republican majorities in the State House and Senate it’s unlikely they’ll be taking much action to protect voting rights.
This change will instead remove barriers to participation for the hundreds of thousands of college students in Texas who may not have a drivers license or other qualified form of ID. The law would also bring Texas in line with the majority of other states with stringent voter ID laws on the books.
I asked Rep. Canales about HB 295:
Since 2005, 11 state have passed strict photo ID laws. Of those, only 2 states including Texas do not allow university students to use their school ID to vote. Texas university ID’s can be just as safe as a driver’s license. By General Greg Abbot’s admission, over the 13 years of Abbott’s tenure, his office can only cite two fraudulent votes that might have been stopped by the ID law. To put that another way, such votes accounted for one out of every 18.7 million votes cast in Texas during that period.
This is common-sense legislation that will enable students to participate in our elections process. Elected officials give a lot of lip service to increasing young voter turnout — let’s see if they take an actual step to make that happen.