The House Elections Committee on Monday approved a bill that would make court-ordered changes to the state’s controversial voter identification law, moving the proposal to the House floor under the looming specter of federal action.
Senate Bill 5, written by Rep. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, would give more leeway to people who show up to the polls without one of seven state-approved photo IDs. They would be allowed to use other documents that carry their name and address as proof of identity, such as a utility bill, if they sign a “declaration of impediment” stating why they don’t have an approved ID. The bill would make lying on the document a third-degree felony punishable by two to 10 years in prison. It would also create a voter registration program that sends mobile units to events to issue election identification certificates.
The committee sent the bill to the House floor on a 5-2 vote along party lines. Democrats in both chambers have opposed the bill, saying it does not go far enough to address the discriminatory issues federal courts have found with the law. When the Senate passed its proposal in March, Huffman said her bill balanced protections against voter fraud with maintaining access to the vote.
Last week, a district court judge in Corpus Christi ruled for the second time that the 2011 voter ID law was written with intent to discriminate against minority voters. It dealt another blow to the state in a six-year legal battle and increased pressure on the Legislature to permanently address the issues.