|EDINBURG, November 10 - The U.S. Supreme Court recently repealed Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which allowed Texas to move forward with the controversial new Texas Voter ID law. But the legal battle to protect our Constitutional right to vote is far from over.
The U.S. Department of Justice, whose mission includes protecting Americans’ right to vote, has sued Texas in order to throw out the Texas Voter ID law.
I strongly oppose the Texas Voter ID law.
Under the Texas Voter ID law, an otherwise qualified voter has to have one of seven types of government-issued photo ID cards – and four of them require a voter to get it from the state police – the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS).
What kind of message does it send to the rest of the world that in order to vote in Texas, you have to go to the state police?
It tells the world that in Texas, Republicans want to make it more difficult, not easier, to vote.
The DPS has much more important work to do than forcing an unnecessary burden on the right to vote, like fighting criminals, protecting the innocent, and saving lives and property.
In an attempt to ease the burden of the new voting laws, Texas created a new Texas Election Identification Certificate (EIC), a free photo ID that can be used to vote. The only problem is that few voters know that this free ID even exists.
Recently, former U.S. Speaker of the House Jim Wright, D-Ft. Worth, was denied an EIC ID card at a Texas Department of Public Safety office. He did not have the proper identification to get a voter ID. Fortunately, former Speaker Wright has a birth certificate at home, which he will be able to bring back to the office to get his EIC card.
Countless Texans are not so lucky. Many have misplaced or do not have access to their birth certificates. Birth certificates start at $31 to mail and can take from 6 to 8 weeks to receive.
Imagine that. Requiring a Texan to pay money for the constitutional right to vote.
Who would have the most difficulty coming up with the money to vote in Texas?
Minorities. The elderly. The poor.
To get an idea of how many minorities don’t have a Texas driver license, U.S. Census data shows that in Texas, 13.1% of African Americans and 7.3% of Hispanics live in households without access to a motor vehicle, compared with only 3.8 percent of whites.
Even the Texas Attorney General’s Office, which is trying to defend this terribly unfair law, admits that almost 11 percent of Hispanic registered voters did not have a DPS-issued photo ID, compared to only 4.9 percent of non-Hispanic voters.
Transportation is a problem felt strongly by many elderly citizens who are unable to drive due to health issues or lack family members that live nearby. They should not be forced to pay money to vote, especially because many of them are living on fixed incomes.
Household budgets are also tight for millions of law-abiding Texans who want to vote.
The Census Bureau estimated that, between 2007 and 2011, African Americans and Hispanics in Texas experienced poverty at roughly three times the rates of non-Hispanic whites. Meanwhile, non-Hispanic whites made about twice as much as Hispanic and non-Hispanics.
Women are also being penalized by the Texas Voter ID law.
This law requires that a voter’s name on the Texas ID must be “substantially similar” to the name listed in the voter registration database. Women, in particular, have raised legitimate concerns about additional questions because of name discrepancies.
Studies show that eight percent of women keep their maiden names after marrying. This can cause problems in voting for those who haven't updated their information on their documentation. The Honorable Sandra Watts, a state district judge in Nueces County, recently ran into complications at the ballot box when she attempted to vote on October 22.
Even Gregg Abbott, the Republican Texas Attorney General, and Sen. Wendy Davis, a Democratic state senator – two of the candidates for Texas governor – had to sign an affidavit in order to vote because their driver license did not match their names on voting records.
In the past 10 years, Texas has only convicted 4 people of voter impersonation, the only type of voter fraud that the Texas Voter ID law prevents. To put this number into context, Texas has a population of approximately 26 million people and 7,962,799 voted in the 2012 election.
This means voter impersonation has been found as a percentage of Texas votes, at a rate of 0.00000005 percent. The percentage of Americans struck by lightning annually is 0.000143 percent – almost 3,000 times greater than cases of provable voter impersonation in Texas.
The Texas Voter ID law is not designed to protect the integrity of the ballot box.
This bad law is intended to scare away voters by requiring countless Texans to have to go through the state police for their God-given right to vote in America – and then pay money for that right as well.
There is no proof that the Texas Voter ID law will actually protect the integrity of the ballot box. The Texas Voter ID law’s main purpose is simply to disenfranchise minorities, the elderly, and the poor.
Terry Canales is state representative for District 40 in Texas. A Democrat, he resides in Edinburg, Texas.