Voter ID laws in Texas have been the topic of many controversial conversations, even more recently within my circle of friends. My opinions and beliefs often vary from that of my close peers because 50% of them follow a Republican, more conservative school of thought in contrast with my more liberal belief system. My thoughts regarding the need for strict voter ID laws are binary and complicated at least, because while I believe voters should be required to provide an official form of identification to vote, I also believe those laws would be burdensome and discriminatory to various racial and ethnic groups. I believe that while voter fraud doesn’t exist on a large scale, there has been evidence of fraud in smaller numbers. According to a study from the ACLU, since 2000, fraud occurring at physical voting locations are “vanishingly rare” and found less than fifty instances where voters were pretending to be someone else. Furthermore, the ACLU stated that some of those incidents were the direct result of an “honest mistake” by the election worker or the voter themselves. Their overall opinion is that the requirement to show an ID at the poll is a “solution in search of a problem” (Oppose Voter ID Legislation – Fact Sheet).
As mentioned earlier, the introduction of strict ID requirements to vote, I believe, does have an adverse effect on various racial and ethnic groups as well as suppresses voter turnout. Making an appointment is the first step, which can be difficult for those without a computer or internet access. Once they arrive for their appointment, the only way for a first-time applicant without a U.S. passport to obtain an ID is to provide proof of U.S. Citizenship in the form of a correct birth certificate provided by the state where the applicant was born. As a second and third requirement, the applicant must provide two proofs of Texas residency and a second form of identification, both sourced from a lengthy list published on the Texas Department of Public Safety website. Finally, a document showing proof of a social security number is also required (How to Apply for a Texas Identification Card). This process alone is extremely confusing and can be difficult to navigate with assistance.
For many, that process to obtain an ID is easy and convenient, but for others, the process can also be a stringent, time consuming, and very expensive one. According to an article from The Washington Post, a black Houston resident found the process to be very difficult and restrictive, disqualifying him from casting a vote in the 2016 presidential election. Anthony Settles name did not match his birth certificate because his mother changed his name when he was fourteen. In order to secure a Texas ID, the state mandated he provide a copy of his 1964 “name-change certificate” which they were unable to produce. As a result, he would be required to pursue the legal process, costing him in excess of $ 250 (Horwitz). For the elderly, most live on a fixed income from social security benefits and do not have the extra money to spend. The entire process could even be more costly for others that live in rural areas and have no method of transportation to and from the city, or for the racial and ethnic minorities, like Settles, that are unable to verify their identity due to a lack of access to historical and statistical records. Using data from an exit poll, a study indicated that “African Americans, Asian Americans, and Hispanic Americans” were not likely to have a source to verify their identity (Pryor et al., 69). In 2014, a study found that 400 votes were not cast because the new laws were confusing and unclear to some. Many voters indicated they did not vote because they believed they didn’t meet the ID requirements and later discovered that they did (Pryor et al., 68).
Texas has a history of trying to enact legislation to disenfranchise the voters of some racial groups, and in my opinion, the voter ID law is no different. I look forward to a day where everyone regardless of vote is treated equally, of his or her skin color, origin, or religion.
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Horwitz, Sari. “Getting a Photo ID so You Can Vote Is Easy. Unless You’re Poor, Black, Latino or Elderly. ” The Washington Post, WP Company, 23 May 2016, www.washingtonpost.com/politics/courts_law/getting-a-photo-id-so-you-can-vote-is-easy-unless-youre-poor-black-latino -or-elderly / 2016/05/23 / 8d5474ec-20f0-11e6-8690-f14ca9de2972_story.html.
“How to Apply for a Texas Identification Card.” How to Apply for a Texas Identification Card | Department of Public Safety, www.dps.texas.gov/section/driver-license/how-apply-texas-identification-card.
“Oppose Voter ID Legislation – Fact Sheet.” American Civil Liberties Union, May 2017, www.aclu.org/other/oppose-voter-id-legislation-fact-sheet.
Pryor, Ben, et al. “Voter ID Laws: The Disenfranchisement of Minority Voters?” Political Science Quarterly (Wiley-Blackwell), vol. 134, no. 1, Spring 2019, pp. 63-83. EBSCOhost, doi: 10.1002 / polq.12868.
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Pryor, Ben, et al. “Voter ID Laws: The Disenfranchisement of Minority Voters?” Political Science Quarterly (Wiley-Blackwell), vol. 134, no. 1, Spring 2019, pp. 63-83. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1002/polq.12868.