Two weeks of early voting revealed strains and missteps as Texas tried to comply with a court order reining in its voter ID law. When Election Day dawns, civil rights advocates, along with state and county officials, hope that most wrinkles have been ironed out for the ultimate test. “I think there’s been a needed pressure on the counties, as well as a public awareness,” Marisa Bono, southwest regional counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense Educational Fund (MALDEF), said Friday — Texans’ last day to vote early before Tuesday’s anticipated poll rush. “We’ve certainly had less complaints this week than we did last week.” Alicia Pierce, a spokeswoman for the Secretary of State Carlos Cascos, said her office was also fielding fewer calls from confused or concerned voters, making her optimistic Election Day will go smoothly.
Still, voting rights advocates are disappointed that some counties appeared unprepared to implement — or inform voters about — a court order allowing Texans without photo identification to cast ballots. And the initial hiccups highlight how strict voter ID laws can factor into elections even after courts order them fixed. “This is a serious issue, and we can’t sweep it under the rug as isolated events or aberrations,” Bono said. “It’s clear that something happened systematically here, and we need to figure out what it was.”
Republican Texas lawmakers adopted the nation’s strictest voter ID law in 2011, claiming they sought to bolster the integrity of elections by preventing voter fraud, which Gov. Greg Abbott calls “rampant.” But critics argued that the law was intended to suppress voting by people least likely to have photo IDs, including minorities and others who tend to vote Democratic.
The U.S. Department of Justice and other plaintiffs, who pointed to comprehensive studies identifying in-person voter fraud as incredibly rare, challenged the law and notched a string of legal victories that prompted changes for this election.