By State Senator Royce West
Back in October, I wrote to inform constituents and Texas voters of the changes ahead due to the passage of SB14 that if enacted, will require a voter to present one of seven state-approved forms of photo identification to election officials to cast a ballot.
While SB14 did in fact pass into law, it has yet to take effect due to pre-clearance requirements under the federal Voting Rights Act which says that any statutory changes that could potentially impact the ability of minority citizens to vote in Texas must first gain the approval of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).
To date, that approval has not been granted as this and other matters tied to the hot- button topic of redistricting have found their ways to courtrooms in both Washington and Texas.
Since we are now two months into the 2012 election season, and since these issues will help determine the course for what is to come, I have decided to provide periodic updates on this and other topics under the serial heading of “ARE YOU READY TO VOTE?”
A familiar adage reminds that all politics are local and here at the home base, my offices have begun to field calls inquiring, “When will I receive my voter registration card?” Glad you’ve asked.
One of SB14′s mandates would add information regarding new photo identification requirements to the actual voter registration certificate. But since the new law has yet to pass DOJ muster, that cannot take place. Even more problematic is that the information provided as part of your voter registration card which instructs voters on the precinct where they are eligible to vote can also not yet be determined because it is tied to current court and DOJ redistricting cases.
Redistricting you’ll recall, requires that following each decennial census, for the boundaries that determine voting districts for all levels of government – from the U.S. House of Representatives, down to local city and school districts – to be redrawn to reflect changes in population.
Currently under dispute in the courts, are the maps that would determine the legal boundaries of U.S. House, state senate and state house districts.
So to answer the question, “When will I get my voter registration card?” the best answer now available is that no one knows yet. With the various districts currently undefined, county election officials cannot add that information to voter registration cards. Neither can they draw voting precinct lines.
What I can tell you is that according to the Texas Secretary of State, if you are currently a registered voter, you are still a registered voter. Secondly, voter registration cards will be printed after these matters are resolved by the courts, allowing also the time required for county precinct lines to be drawn. Testimony suggests this could take six to eight weeks after new maps are approved.
New voters or those whose residency has changed are encouraged to move forward in applying for registration.
Due to the court cases, the Spring primary elections normally held in March in Texas have already been pushed back, first to April 3 and now to at least May 29 and even that date is not certain. Whenever the election date, Texas law will still allow registration up to 30 days before an election. Bank on having your new voter registration card in hand and guidelines on how it will be used to be determined by then.