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Darlene Ewing: Voter ID Law May Take Effect Jan 1, Be Prepared

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By Darlene Ewing

The 2011, the 82nd Texas Legislature enacted what is known as the Voter I.D. Law (SB 14) after failing in previous sessions to get the bill passed. The legislature has blamed “voter fraud” as the justification for one of the most restrictive voter ID laws in the country. While being unable to document one instance in Texas where a voter impersonated another voter in order to vote; they moved forward with the law.

The Bush Administration made voter fraud a priority of its Justice Department and investigated thousands of complaints of  alleged fraud. Over a five year period, they were able to document 120 cases of voter fraud nationwide. Of those, most involved eligibility or felons improperly voting.

Wisconsin U.S. Attorney Steven Biskupic prosecuted multiple voter fraud cases and each one was either lost or thrown out of court. No evidence of impersonation of voters was found, which is the targeted fraud used to justify photo ID’s.

A study of voter fraud in the United States (The Truth About Voter Fraud) was conducted by the Brennan Center for Justice, a non-partisan public policy and democracy institute based at New York University Law School. After reviewing all types of voter fraud in the United States, the Brennan Center stated that it was more likely that a voter would be struck by lightning than for a person to impersonate a registered voter.

It is estimated that 605,000 registered voters in Texas do not possess a valid driver’s license. The Department of Justice has requested the Secretary of State to provide a racial and ethnic breakdown by county of the 605,000 voters before they can determine if the law meets the requirements of the Voting Rights Act.

The Secretary of State, so far, has not provided the required information. Because of the time requirement which allows the Justice Department sixty days to review a law after the information is received, it is unlikely that the law will take effect on January 1 as expected.

However, if the Voter I.D. law is approved, one of the the following will be required to vote:

  • DRIVER’S LICENSE
  • STATE PHOTO ID
  • PASSPORT
  • PHOTO MILITARY ID
  • PHOTO CITIZENSHIP PAPERS
  • CONCEALED HANDGUN LICENSE WITH PHOTO
  • A NEW VOTER ID

All required ID’s must be valid or not have expired for more than sixty days. Not all photo ID’s will be acceptable. For example, a state employee ID, a student ID, a private employer ID, or a county employee ID will not be accepted. A person without a driver’s license or state photo ID can apply for a voter ID at no charge from the Department of Public Safety. In order to obtain the voter ID, a person will have to show a certified copy of their birth certificate.

It appears we are currently living in a political environment that harkens back to the days of poll taxes and literacy tests. In a country that celebrates democracy and the right to vote; a segment of society wants to limit voting and access to the ballot box.

Perhaps, the fear of losing elections has led to the strategy of limiting those who can cast their vote. Regardless – if the Voter ID Law is ultimately approved by the Justice Department, voters will be forced to comply with its rules.

Get prepared now. Ensure your right to vote is unaltered by obtaining the proper id – DRIVER’S LICENSE, STATE PHOTO ID, PHOTO MILITARY ID, PASSPORT, PHOTO CITIZENSHIP PAPERS, CONCEALED HANDGUN LICENSE; or NEW VOTER ID.

The great thing about voting is it gives you a voice. If you vote, you can elect a representative who supports voting by every citizen. With enough like-minded representatives, laws that restrict and discourage voting can be amended or even repealed. It just requires VOTING.

Darlene Ewing is the Chair of the Dallas County Democratic Party.

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