Early voting for the March Primary Election began today with Texas’ voter ID law enjoying full enforcement, despite U.S. Department of Justice objections in federal court. Just as Texans experienced in the 2013 Constitutional Election, voters must present an approved photo ID to cast a regular ballot at their polling place.
The Holder Justice Department filed a federal lawsuit against Texas in summer 2013 on the claim that voter ID was a violation of the Voting Right Act, as part of a wider national campaign to block election integrity reforms. On February 11, the DOJ requested the court consider postponing the September 2014 trial date – arguing they did not have ample time to analyze data among ethnic groups and, therefore, their effort would be “irreparably prejudiced” as a result. The DOJ was rejected on Friday.
Based on Heritage Foundation analysis of Texas’ initial voter ID election in 2013, the DOJ does not have the best minority voter turnout data to build a case upon. Senior Legal Fellow Hans von Spakovsky argues the “requirement has done nothing to suppress voter turnout throughout the state. In fact, turnout in last year’s constitutional elections in Texas yielded some of the highest turnout numbers in the past decade for similar type elections.” Spakovsky adds that compared to the last Constitutional Election in 2011, registered voter turnout had nearly doubled overall, across ethnic and economic segments as well.
At present, both voter ID enforcement and the Holder Justice Department’s effort to dismantle the law are moving full speed ahead.
Texas Secretary of State Nandita Berry has continued public outreach efforts reminding voters to bring either a DPS-issued photo ID, U.S. Citizenship Certificate, Passport or military ID to the polls. Under the law, disabled persons may permanently exempt themselves. Should a voter need to cast a provisional ballot for lack of ID, they would have six days to return to their county voter registrar with acceptable identification to blend their ballot with the general count.
Should recent history repeat, the Davis Affidavit will likely continue to attract blaring headlines from some local papers in the 2014 voting periods. Often described as “snagging” or “causing hiccups,” Senator Wendy Davis’ amendment to the voter ID bill created a procedure for voters to affirm their identity, should their names not “significantly” match between voter registration records and their ID of choice. The Secretary of State continuously offers a free, online Voter Name and Address Changes system in order for Texans to spot and correct discrepancies in public records before voting. Voters signing affidavits will immediately be allowed to cast a regular ballot.
Given the current legal environment, a considerable number of eyes will be on south Texas as federal litigators hope to quantify their theory of disproportionate impact experienced by Latino voters with the ID law. Cameron County Election Administrator Chris Davis claimed great confidence in local preparation for enforcing the law amid increasing expected turnout on Sunday. Given the geographic proximity to a foreign country with a similar voter ID requirement, early confidence may be justified.
Citizen groups have also declared their intent to assist the voting public throughout the 2014 Election. Houston-based True the Vote once again switched on its voter ID assistance effort, “NeedID?” – offering compliance tips and important, official contact information. In addition a Cameron County group, Citizens Against Voter Abuse, has operated a door-to-door campaign to educate citizens on their rights as voters and tips to spot illegal campaign activity.
Texas Secretary of State Berry’s office will continue to showcase its VoteTexas platform for all 2014 Election needs.