Highlights of Texas Politics – Voter ID

Associated Press, in US News & World Report—

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The Texas Senate on Monday approved key modifications to the state’s strictest-in-the-nation voter ID law, incorporating some changes ordered after federal courts previously found it discriminatory.

The bill doesn’t ease requirements about which seven forms of picture identifications people are allowed to show when casting ballots — gun licenses remain acceptable, but college IDs aren’t. Federal courts have found that the law disproportionately affects poor and minority voters, and ordered a workaround for November’s presidential election that let Texans without required ID vote by signing an affidavit.

Sponsored by Republican Sen. Joan Huffman, the bill instead makes permanent much of the court-ordered workaround while also creating a criminal penalty of up to 10 years in prison for deliberately lying on such affidavits.

A recent Associated Press analysis of roughly 13,500 affidavits submitted in Texas’ largest counties found at least 500 instances in which voters were allowed to get around the law by signing an affidavit and never showing a photo ID — despite indicating that they possessed one. Most of those cases tended to reflect confusion about — or people deliberately voicing objections to — the voter ID law, though, rather than attempted fraud.

The proposal passed 21 to 10 and now needs only a ceremonial final vote before heading to the state House, which, like the Texas Senate, is Republican-controlled.

The bill drew stiff objections from Democrats, including Sen. Jose Rodriguez of El Paso, who noted that it doesn’t fully follow the court-ordered fixes. He also worried that the proposal could prosecute people who mistakenly sign unnecessary affidavits while adding “another level of intimidation,” that may further stigmatize voters casting ballots because they lack proper ID.

Huffman countered that her bill strikes a balance between combating voter fraud and following the court-ordered “roadmap” to an improved voter ID law.

She said it aims “to follow all constitutional direction that Texas received from the federal courts to achieve a bill that is fair to all who want to vote, yet retains the integrity of the vote.”

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