Texas officials cited Pres. Bush’s Justice Department’s approval of Georgia’s voter photo ID law as a reason for the Obama administration to clear their new photo ID law.
Gov. Rick Perry, now in the running for the Republican presidential nomination, signed the voter ID bill into law in May. Perry had designated the measure as an “emergency item,” despite the lack of evidence that the voter fraud the law purports to try to prevent a major problem. The law requires voters show one of five forms of ID when they go to vote: a drivers license, military ID, a passport, a concealed handgun license or a voter ID card the state provides for free.
Secretary of State Hope Andrade wrote a letter to the chief of the Civil Rights Division’s voting section defending the measure and seeking pre-clearance under the Voting Rights Act.
Andrade called the Texas law “remarkably similar” to Georgia’s pre-cleared voter ID law. “In fact, DOJ pre-cleared Georgia’s original photo-identification law even before Georgia enacted its free ID provision and its most recent extensive voter education mandate, which Georgia added in a subsequent legislative session.”
But the approval of the Georgia voter ID law was done by political officials in the Bush Justice Department over the objection of career employees in the voting section, who had recommended that the law not be approved.
Within a year of recommending that Georgia’s voter ID law not be pre-cleared, three of the career employees who made the recommendation had either left or were transferred out of the voting section.
“They weren’t really interested in investigating Georgia’s submission,” former DOJ lawyer Toby Moore told TPM back in 2007. “They were mainly interested in assembling evidence to support pre-clearance. Any attempt to bring up counter-evidence to suggest a discriminatory impact was ignored or critiqued. We were told it was our own bias…. Any evidence in support was embraced uncritically.”
A state Supreme Court judge eventually upheld Georgia’s voter ID law.
A Tea Party affiliated group True the Vote held a national convention in Houston last March to actively support restrictive voter photo ID measures.
Texas Voter Photo ID Summary
Effective Dates (Pending U.S. Dept. of Justice clearance)
Starting September 1, 2011 the Secretary of State, and the voter registrar of each county shall provide notice of the ID requirements for voting in each language in which voter registration materials are available. Required government issued photo identification must be presented to polling place election clerks for all elections occurring after January 1, 2012.
Photo IDs Permitted
All IDs must be unexpired or expired no earlier than 60 days before the election. Acceptable identification includes:
- A driver’s license, election ID certificate, or personal ID card issued to the person by the Department of Public Safety (i.e., an election certificate issued to a person 70 years or older does not expire);
- U.S. military ID card that contains the person’s photograph;
- U.S. citizenship certificate issued to the voter with their photograph;
- U.S. passport; or
- A license to carry a concealed handgun.
*Student IDs are not accepted in Texas for purposes of identification for voting.
A person may obtain an exemption from the ID requirement on the basis of disability if they produce a statement in a form determined by the SOS that the applicant does not have any of the prescribed forms of identification, and they have an:
- U.S.S.S.A. determination of disability, or
- U.S.V.A. disability rating of 50%.
A voter without a photo ID may cast a provisional ballot, which will count if she signs an affidavit attesting to the fact that she:
- has a religious objection to being photographed, or
- does not have an ID as a result of a natural disaster declared by the U.S. President or Texas’ Governor no earlier than 45 days before the election and that disaster caused the inability to access the voter’s ID.
The affidavit may be signed at the time the provisional ballot is cast or at the time the voter appears before the voter registrar within 6 days following the election to have the provisional ballot counted.
Early/Absentee Voting ID Requirements
The photo ID requirement does not apply to absentee voting, including early voting by mail. Photo ID requirements apply to all in-person or curbside early voting.
Texas will issue an Election Identification Certificate (EIC) to persons who do not have another qualifying ID for purposes of voting. The applicant must present a voter registration card or register to vote at the time of applying for an EIC. There is no fee for an initial or duplicate EIC.
Public Education Requirements
The Secretary of State, and the voter registrar of each county that maintains a website, shall provide notice of the ID requirements for voting in each language in which voter registration materials are available. The Secretary of State shall prescribe the wording of the notice to be included on the websites, and shall also conduct a statewide effort to educate voters regarding the identification requirements for voting. The county clerk of each county shall post in a prominent location at the clerk’s office a physical copy of ID information in each language in which voter registration materials are available.
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