Every document Casper Pryor could think of that bore his name was folded in the back pocket of his jeans. But sitting on a curb Thursday, a can of Sprite in hand, Pryor wasn’t sure whether those papers and the hour-long bus ride he had taken to get to Holman Street would result in a crucial new piece of ID. An ID that would allow the 33-year-old Houston native to vote. Election identification certificates were designed for the 600,000 to 750,000 voters who lack any of the six officially recognized forms of photo ID needed at the polls, according to estimates developed by the Texas secretary of state and the U.S. Department of Justice. Legislators created the EICs, which are free, in part to quell criticism that enforcing the state’s much-litigated ID law amounted to a poll tax that could disenfranchise low-income and minority voters. But as of Thursday, only 371 EICs had been issued across Texas since June 2013. By comparison, Georgia issued 2,182 free voter ID cards during its first year enforcing a voter ID law in 2006, and Mississippi has issued 2,539 in the 10 months its new law has been in place. Both states accept more forms of photo identification at polls than Texas does, so fewer voters there would need to apply for election-specific IDs. In Texas, some would-be voters are hitting roadblocks.
Pryor said he has been spending more than four hours each trip trying to obtain an EIC, and he’s been back and forth several times. Though the cards are free, there are transportation costs and fees for supporting documents.
“It turned into a full-time job,” he said. “Going here, going there, it’ll make you give up.”
The Department of Public Safety, charged with administering and distributing the EICs, said it had received more than 2,000 inquiries since the program began. But Tom Vinger, a DPS spokesman, said in an email that many of those individuals already had other forms of acceptable ID.
The DPS, secretary of state’s office and even advocates opposed to voter ID suggest that many voters are finding other ways to resolve ID dilemmas.