The real truth about using the Texas photo identification law to cast ballots and make your voice heard has not been told. While some County officials around the state report that November 2013 elections went smoothly under low voter turnout conditions, others warn the system has not been tested in elections with large voter turnouts.
That fact has some worried that the new law will discourage turnout, cause greater frustration, longer lines at the polls and raise questions about the disenfranchisement of African-Americans, youth, the elderly and “seasonal voters”.
“This law is ridiculous,” said Lane Lewis, County Chair of the Harris County Democratic Party. “Voter I.D. Has nothing to do with voter fraud and a lot to do with voter suppression. To say it does not affect the process is a false assumption.”
Texas passed the law and requires voters to produce a state-approved form of photo identification to vote in at polls in an any election. Under the law, voters must show an acceptable form of photo identification to be eligible.
The law also raises concerns about the past about a system that historically has been shaped and rigged to favor parties in majority power.
According to a report by Texas Politics, the state has a history of systematic disenfranchisement of Blacks, Latinos, and poor Whites. The 13th Amendment abolished slavery in 1865 and the 14th Amendment (1868) and 15th Amendment (1870) to the Constitution were passed to guarantee, the “privileges and immunities” and the right to vote of all U.S. citizens.
However, the report said with the end of the Reconstruction in the 1870s, the nation politically abandoned uniform enforcement of the Civil War amendments and with reduced federal enforcement of the rights protected by the amendments, many southern states enacted Jim Crow Laws designed to restrict or prevent African-American voter participation. Texas never legislated the literacy test or grandfather clause but instead chose to suppress Black voting using poll taxes and the White primary.
Texas adopted the tax in 1902 and charged money to vote. It required that otherwise eligible voters pay between $1.50 and $1.75 to register to vote – a lot of money at the time, and a big barrier to the working classes and poor.
Poll taxes, which disproportionately affected African- Americans and Mexican- Americans, were finally abolished for national elections by the 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, adopted in 1964. Two years later, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that poll taxes in state elections were unconstitutional.
Photo ID is still controversial in Texas. It is still under scrutiny by the U.S. Justice Department who is monitoring it, reviewing it to determine the constitutionality of the law and its overall effect on suppressing voting rights of African-Americans and others.
In Dallas County
Elections Administrator, Toni Pippins-Pole said there are many lessons learned and work still to do after rolling out the new photo I.D. In her county.
“It was a new process and a lot of confusion,” she said. “We were not prepared for the issues we faced and voters did not understand what the voter identification meant.”
Of the 70,000 that voted in November election, 14,000 names did not match and 100 provisional ballots were done and that was only with a 6-percent voter turnout.
“This was a smaller elections. The real test come when seasonal voters come to the polls to vote for Texas Governor and (in 2016) for President,” she said. “We are still learning and need more training in order to prevent voter frustrations and long lines.”
Pippins-Poole added that her office has identified over 350,000 names in their information databases that could cause potential issues if all showed up at the polls to vote in a major election.
She said letters and postcards are being sent to voters to make them aware of the issues before primary and general elections.
Elections Administrator, Jacque Callanen said one way to prevent election day headaches is to develop a proactive attack. She said the November election was an election that was a small sample core voters in San Antonio and Bexar County, but gave her insight into how to make the best of the new law.