GOP to gain votes from ID bill
When the voting rights act was implemented in 1965, the spirit of the law was to put an end to widespread discriminatory practices in the South that were aimed at preventing African-American citizens from voting. Poll taxes, literacy tests and other discriminatory practices were banned, and states that had used such tactics — including Texas — were required by the act to obtain pre-clearance from the Department of Justice before enacting any changes to voting practices.
The DOJ is currently reviewing Texas Senate Bill 14, which passed the Texas legislature earlier this year. This bill, which would become the most stringent voter ID legislation in the nation, would require all Texans to show a photo ID before being allowed to cast their ballot, even if they are on the voting roll. Non-photo identification, such as voter registration certificates or birth certificates, will no longer be accepted.
Minority and impoverished citizens are twice as likely to lack government-issued photo ID. Many students also lack a photo ID other than their student ID card, especially in cities like Austin where driving is unnecessary. Student IDs will not be accepted under the new law.
It is interesting that while identification regularly held by minorities and young people are not acceptable, some exceptions have been made to the law. Persons born prior to 1931 will be exempt, and a handgun license will be an eligible form of ID.
A section of the bill permits voters to receive an ID from the DPS free of charge. This provision, which could cost the state up to $14 million, allows voters to place a provisional ballot so long as they are in possession of the identification within 6 days of casting the provisional ballot. As anyone who has received an ID from a Texas DPS can tell you, it will be a miracle if the ID is received within two weeks.
This bill, and the many others like it around the country, is designed to discourage in-person voter fraud. Certainly voter fraud is disturbing, and if by potentially disenfranchising thousands of voters, we can eliminate a larger number of fraudulent votes, perhaps voter ID would be a necessary evil.
The problem is that ID laws only impact one type of fraud — in-person voter fraud. According to a comprehensive report on voter fraud conducted by the NYU School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice in 2007, “It is more likely that an individual will be struck by lightning than that he will impersonate another voter at the polls.”
So if we know that the only kind of fraud this bill could prevent, in-person voter fraud, is practically non-existent and that by implementing the law thousands of Texas voters would face significant barriers to their constitutional right to vote at great cost to our state, why bother with a voter ID law at all then?
Royal Masset, the former political director for the Republican party of Texas, was quoted by the Houston Chronicle in 2007 saying, “It is an article of religious faith that voter fraud is causing us to lose elections.”
This is a true statement, but not for the obvious reason.
According to the same 2007 Houston Chronicle article, enforcing a voter ID law would add 3 percent to the Republican vote. This is because such a law would result in the political disenfranchisement of poorer Democratic voters — the true goal of Texas Senate Bill 14.
Emily Brooks is an economics senior and may be reached at [email protected].