Texans will have to prove who they are to cast ballots today, beginning a series of U.S state elections that will show the effect of laws pushed by Republicans requiring photo identification at the polls. Nine states this year are holding their first major votes – – including for governor and Congress — under such laws, according to the Denver-based National Conference of State Legislatures. The U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for many such requirements last year after throwing out a core element of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which was meant to enfranchise blacks in the segregated South.
Republicans have said the measures will stop fraud, while Democrats say they are meant to keep minorities and the poor from participating. The effects may be sweeping: In Dallas County alone, the elections department mailed letters in January to warn almost 200,000 people of discrepancies between voter registrations and identification records, said Kathleen Thompson, spokeswoman for the county’s Democratic Party.
“We’re going to be watching it very closely, obviously with an eye to concern about just how much it reduces Latino turnout at the elections or even results in Latinos being turned away from the polls,” said Brent Wilkes, national executive director for the League of United Latin American Citizens, an Washington-based group that opposes the laws.