Voter ID law in Texas is “tantamount to a poll tax”

Posted in Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Elections, Right Wing Lies at 12:41 pm by wcnews

Here’s an excerpt from an Op-Ed by a Rice political science professor that reiterates why this bill is so bad, When it comes to voter ID law, the cure is worse than the disease, (tip to Kuff).

In principle, any effort to safeguard our voting system is meritorious. However, in its zeal to eliminate a tiny number of isolated and uncoordinated instances of electoral fraud in the form of voter impersonation, the Texas voter ID law (SB 14), passed in 2011 and presently under review by the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., erects a substantial barrier to participation for hundreds of thousands of Texans. The law would effectively disenfranchise a large number of citizens who lack the photo identification required by the law and are unable or unwilling to invest the time and money necessary to obtain the election identification certificate (EIC) offered by the state. Viewed in its most favorable light, SB 14 is an attempt by Republican leaders to satisfy a longstanding demand of GOP activists, and, at its worst, a concerted effort to gain electoral advantage vis-à-vis the Democratic Party through vote suppression.

SB 14 would burden many lower-income voters with nontrivial costs, tantamount to a poll tax, such as purchasing a birth certificate and arranging for transportation and forgoing a day’s wages to visit a Department of Public Safety (DPS) office to obtain an EIC. [Emphasis added] It would force a myriad of Texans to choose between putting food on the table for their children and voting. One of the law’s principal weaknesses is its failure to make a serious effort to address this cost issue, a flaw likely to result in the federal courts preventing SB 14 in its present form from ever being enforced.


Ironically, SB 14 does not address the most common type of voting malfeasance in Texas: mail-in ballot fraud. While rare, it nonetheless is a problem of equal, if not greater, concern than voter impersonation fraud. And yet, SB 14 does nothing to combat it, neglecting to follow the example of a half -dozen states that mandate a voter’s signature on the mail-in ballot envelope be verified by a notary public or two witnesses. Under SB 14, a photo ID is not required to vote by mail.

When crafting SB 14, lawmakers likely determined that the negligible benefits in fraud prevention obtained by enhancing the integrity of the mail-in ballot process paled in comparison to the negative impact this reform would have on Texans, primarily those 65 and older, by making voting by mail more difficult for some and leading others to refrain from casting a ballot altogether. However, this same logic holds for SB 14′s photo ID requirement, which provides a miniscule enhancement in electoral integrity at the cost of placing even more onerous demands on a larger number of Texans.

One area where these two measures differ is in the demographic and partisan composition of the registered voters affected. The photo ID requirement would disproportionately affect African-Americans and Hispanics, two groups that voted overwhelmingly (98 percent and 64 percent) for Democrat Barack Obama in 2008. In contrast, a notary/witness requirement for mail-in ballots would disproportionately affect voters age 65 and over, a group that largely (67 percent) backed Republican John McCain in 2008 (Anglos account for more than two-thirds of senior voters in Texas, with 79 percent voting for McCain). In Harris County, 63 percent of those who voted by mail supported McCain, compared to 48 percent who cast their ballot in person.

If the sole effect of the Texas voter ID law was merely to remedy an essentially nonexistent problem, there would be little reason to object to its enforcement. This is, however, not the case. The law would increase the costs associated with voting for hundreds of thousands of Texans as well as depress the overall level of voter turnout from what it otherwise would have been in the law’s absence. Upon reflection, SB 14 appears to have less to do with safeguarding elections and more to do with appeasing portions of the Republican party base and potentially, if the law is eventually enforced, reducing the vote share of Democratic Party candidates in many races across Texas by perhaps a few percentage points.

There’s more about the costs of this bill from this article in yesterday’s WaPo, Study finds costs associated with voter IDs.

New laws in 10 states requiring voters to show IDs could present serious challenges to voters without financial resources and transportation, according to a report released Wednesday.

The study by the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, which opposes the new laws, found several obstacles that could keep voters from being able to cast ballots, including limited access to offices that issue the IDs required under the new measures.

“The advocates of these laws kept saying we’re going to provide these IDs for free and that’s going to eliminate all of the problems,” said Keesha Gaskins, co-author of the report. “We found the ability to get documents isn’t that simple. The documents are costly for many, many voters and there are serious transportation barriers for many voters. We just found really significant problems.”

Read the Brennan Center report here, The Challenge of Obtaining Voter Identification.

This was very important for the future of the GOP in Texas and for Attorney General Gregg Abbott. So important that the case couldn’t be entrusted to his staff. He had to pony-up Texas taxpayer money and outsource the job to high priced out of state lawyers. TDP Files Open Records Request on Voter ID Trial Costs.

Abbott Outsourcing Disenfranchisement Efforts

As with redistricting, the State of Texas contracted with Chicago-based law firm Bartlit Beck to take the lead in representing Texas in the Voter ID trial. The Texas Democratic Party submitted an Open Records Request to the Office of the Attorney General inquiring how much Texas taxpayers have spent on the Voter ID trial and specifically how much has been outsourced to Bartlit Beck. You can read that letter here. TDP spokeswoman Rebecca Acuña released the following statement:

“Apparently General Abbott thinks no one in the Attorney General’s office or in Texas for that matter is capable of leading the Republican voter suppression trial. Just like with the redistricting trial, Abbott is outsourcing official Texas business to a Chicago law-firm. It’s shameful enough that Abbott continues to taxpayer dollars to disenfranchise Texans. The fact that he’s sending this money out of state makes it worse.

Texans deserve to know how much of their money is being wasted and outsourced by the Attorney General Abbott on these disenfranchisement efforts.”


  • According to the Dallas Morning News, as of January 26, 2012 Texas taxpayers had spent almost $1.4 million in legal costs for the Texas redistricting battle. Of those $1.4 million, $395,000 went to a contract with Chicago-based law firm- Bartlit Beck.
  • Leading up to his 2006 reelection campaign, Abbott cost Texas taxpayers $1.4 million on a wild goose chase that turned up no cases of voter impersonation.

Further Reading:
Voter ID much like a modern-day poll tax.
Report: Voter ID Laws Put Undue Burden On 10 Million Voters.

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