After confusion over whether several hundred Texans voted improperly in the November election, local election officials say that the ballots in question likely were cast by eligible voters who got caught up in the chaotic scramble to implement a court order loosening the state’s strict voter identification law. The law, adopted in 2011 by the GOP-controlled Legislature and mired in a yearslong court battle, requires voters to show one of seven forms of government-issued photo ID. After federal courts found the law to be discriminatory, a judge in August ordered Texas officials to soften its requirements for the Nov. 8 election by allowing registered voters without one of the required photo IDs to cast ballots if they signed affidavits swearing that they had a “reasonable impediment” to obtaining ID and showed other documentation, such as a birth certificate, utility bill, bank statement or government pay stub.
Officials have said the new rules were implemented unevenly across the state, and The Associated Press reported that 500 people who signed the affidavits indicated on the forms that they had photo ID but were declining to show it. Reasons varied, with some withholding their IDs as a protest of the law, some saying they forgot their IDs and others refusing to show an ID without explanation.
The finding led Stephen Vickers, Tarrant County’s chief deputy elections administrator, to say he would forward those affidavits to prosecutors, and it was used as ammunition by Republicans who have argued, without evidence, that voter fraud is widespread. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted in response, “We’ll continue our fight to stop cheating at ballot box.”
But Vickers and other elections officials say the issue wasn’t voter fraud but mass confusion over the voter ID requirements. “That’s really not fraud. That’s just them breaking a rule. They’re still an eligible voter, and they can still vote without that ID,” said Vickers, who said his office is still reviewing the affidavits and will forward them to prosecutors if warranted. “I don’t see voter fraud being rampant. I think most of this is confusion on the voters’ part and our part as far as what is required, and that’s a training issue we need to get at.”