Could it be that the Supreme Court justices overlooked the elegant simplicity of Texas’ traditional election system? We’re talking about the tried-and-true method in place for years, before the Legislature invented a crisis of voter fraud and imposed a photo ID law that places more obstacles before the voting booth. If the justices understood the state’s time-tested system, they wouldn’t have bought the argument that it was too close to Election Day to reinstate it, in favor of the relatively new photo ID requirement. Let’s recall the Texas voting system that was in place before the Republican-controlled Legislature swept it aside in 2011. A registered voter could enter the voting booth by presenting pretty much any ID or document that proved identity, with or without a photo. It might have been a voter registration card or driver’s license. It might have been a library card. It might have been an electric bill, a phone bill or a water bill. The point was to show election workers who you were and where you lived, so long as it coincided with the name on the voter rolls. The beauty of that system was this: If someone stole Grandma’s purse and ID cards, or if — God forbid! — she let her driver’s license expire the year before, she’d still have papers at home she could take to the polls to get a ballot. Grandma would not lose the right to vote on Election Day on a technicality.
What was remarkable about that system was this: Voter fraud at the polls was virtually nonexistent in Texas. The simplicity of Texas’ traditional voting system gave us confidence that poll workers could quickly reinstate it, after a federal judge in Corpus Christi ruled Oct. 9 to block the new photo ID requirement on grounds that it is unconstitutionally discriminatory.
But an appeals court, fretting about the risk of “voter confusion” if the photo ID system were shelved so close to Election Day, blocked the judge’s order. The Supreme Court rubber-stamped the appeals court’s decision over the weekend. That keeps the photo ID system in place — for now.