What do Greg Abbott, Wendy Davis, State Senator Letitia Van De Putte, Former U.S. House Speaker Jim Wright, and U.S. District Court Judge Sandra Watts all have in common? They all apparently have high potential for committing voting fraud– at lest according to the State of Texas. All five of these prominent Texas leaders were hassled by the new Texas Voter ID Law this past November. It has been a concern for those opposed to the Voter ID Law that it will make it difficult for individuals to obtain appropriate identification, and thus poor, elderly, and minority voters will be disenfranchised because they lack appropriate identification. However, it seems that one distinct group that also may be affected are people whose photo ID’s don’t match the name that is recorded in the voter rolls. Of the five people listed above, the only individual who had trouble obtaining an ID was 90-year-old former Speaker Jim Wright. The other four were forced to sign an affidavit because their names on their IDs did not match exactly to their names on the poll books. Only 0.2% of the voting population had to cast a provisional ballot presumably due to improper ID, while some precincts are estimating that as high as 40% of voters had to sign an affidavit for name inconsistencies.
Election Day on November 5 marked the first time Texas’ controversial voter ID laws were affected in the state. And the results were mixed. There is little evidence that the law suppressed voter turnout. Out of the state’s 13.4 million registered voters, only 1.1 million cast ballots in the 2013 election, about 8.5 percent of the electorate. Compare this to 2011 and 2009, other election “off years.” In 2011 when only 5.4 percent of voters showed up. In 2009, about 1 million people cast ballots, about 8.1 percent of the electorate. So as far as the numbers go, voting seemed on par. However, the law lost some PR points with some high publicity hiccups, including several prominent politicians initially being told they couldn’t get a new voter identification card vote because they lacked proper identification. State Senator Wendy Davis, the front-running Democratic candidate for governor next year, had to sign an affidavit because her married name did not match her driver’s license . State Attorney General Greg Abbott, a champion of the law was also flagged because his license listed his name as “Gregory Wayne Abbott” while his voter registration record simply calls him “Greg Abbott.” And former U.S. Speaker of the House Jim Wright couldn’t get his new voter ID at first because his driver’s license had expired.
The new Texas voter ID law had one effect with which neither side can quibble. It got Fort Worth in the national news for something besides our weather or being forever and famously known as the place where former Baptist Sunday school teacher Willie Nelson lit up his first joint. Before the Nov. 5election, Fort Worth was ground zero for Voter ID law news. Gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis’ signing of an affidavit when she voted early and former Speaker of the U.S. House Jim Wright’s problems in getting a state-issued personal identification card both made national news. But what hasn’t been covered nationally or even locally is how the law’s implementation, at least in Tarrant County, wasn’t quite ready for prime time.
Kentucky Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer said recently that if Democrats want to pass a constitutional amendment that would automatically restore the voting rights of felons, they’ll have to agree to a strict new law that would require citizens to present voter IDs when voting. Why screw up perfectly good legislation like House Bill 70, which would allow non-violent felons to vote once they’ve served their sentences, with a bad bill that is anti-democratic (notice the small “d”) and potentially racist. We’ve yet to see exactly what Mr. Thayer, R-Georgetown, has in mind, but the bills pushed across the nation in recent years to make it harder to vote — all in the name of a bogeyman called vote fraud — are universally bad. Take for instance, Texas, where former U.S. House Speaker Jim Wright was at first refused a voter identification card last weekend when his expired driver’s license and Texas Christian University faculty card were deemed insufficient to prove his identity. He had to later provide a birth certificate to prove he was entitled to vote — which he has been doing in Texas for longer than most of us have been alive.
You’ve probably read about the problems that many voters — especially older voters — have encountered under voter ID laws, many of which are relatively new. (There was the recent case, for example, of former House Speaker Jim Wright being turned away because, at 90, he didn’t have a valid driver’s license.) Among those who may have to make long trips to government offices to obtain voter ID cards are people without driver’s licenses (which, like Wright, many older Americans may no longer have), student or employee ID cards (which older Americans likely may not have had for years), or — in the curious case of Virginia — a handgun permit (I guess maybe some older Americans have those). Think about it: Every citizen (with the exception of convicted felons) has the right to vote. When voter ID requirements make it difficult to exercise that right, chaos may follow.
Almost before the smoke had cleared at Pearl Harbor, he had enlisted to serve his country in the Army Air Forces. He viewed the war in the South Pacific through the bomb sight of a B-24 Liberator as a second lieutenant and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery. When he got home to Texas, he was eventually elected to Congress and served 34 years, including a term as speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. But Jim Wright found out the other day he wasn’t qualified to vote in the election in his home state. Wright, who no longer drives at 90, tried to get a voter card under a new Texas law and was told his expired driver’s license and university lecturer’s ID were not adequate proof of his identity. A war hero and former congressman had to go home and dig through old files to return with his birth certificate. Hurrah for the flag of the free? Although there has been only one indicted incident of voter fraud in Texas since 2000, Gov. Rick Perry and the GOP-controlled legislature passed a stringent voter ID law.
First, Judge Sandra Watts was stopped while trying to vote because the name on her photo ID, the same one she had used for voter registration and identification for 52 years, did not exactly match her name on the official voter rolls. A few days later, state Senator Wendy Davis, a Democrat who became a national celebrity after her filibuster over a new abortion law, had the same problem in early voting. So did her likely Republican opponent in next year’s governor’s race, Attorney General Greg Abbott. They were all able to vote after signing affidavits attesting that they were who they claimed to be. But not Jim Wright, a former speaker of the House in Washington, whose expired driver’s license meant he could not vote until he went home and dug a certified copy of his birth certificate out of a box. On Tuesday, Texas unveiled its tough new voter ID law, the only state to do so this year, and the rollout was sometimes rocky. But interviews with opponents and supporters of the new law, which required voters for the first time to produce a state-approved form of photo identification to vote, suggest that in many parts of the state, the law’s first day went better than critics had expected.
Former U.S. Speaker of the House Jim Wright was able to resolve his problem obtaining a new Texas Voter ID card in time for Tuesday’s election. A Weatherford resident was not as fortunate. Wright, a former World War II bombardier, Weatherford resident and mayor, Congressman and now a Fort Worth resident, says he’s finally obtained the documents he needs to vote under new state law on Election Day. Wright told The Associated Press on Monday that he received a temporary version of a state ID that proves his identity under Texas’ Voter ID law, which gets its first major test in Tuesday’s election. Wright, 90, was turned away last week when he tried to obtain proper ID with an expired driver’s license or university faculty ID. Weatherford resident Lisa Blevins was not as lucky.
Greg Abbott, the Republican attorney general of Texas, campaigned long and loud for the state’s new voter ID law. The law is a transparent effort to tilt elections in the state to Republicans by suppressing the minority vote, which is becoming more important as Texas’s demographics shift. So it was a rich irony that Mr. Abbott, who is running for governor, himself set off alarms as a suspicious voter the other day, along with a state judge, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, former speaker of the House Jim Wright and uncounted and unnamed others who tried to vote on a set of state constitutional amendments. The new law, passed by the GOP-dominated state legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Rick Perry, masquerades as a tool to combat election fraud. In fact, as in other states that have enacted similar measures, there is no statistically significant — or even insignificant — evidence of in-person fraud at the polls in Texas.
Jim Wright was once the speaker of the U.S. House, and third in line to the presidency. But Texas’ strict voter ID law nearly prevented him from casting a vote this year. With several major elections and numerous lower-profile races scheduled for Tuesday, Wright’s difficulties are the latest sign that, a year after President Obama pledged to fix America’s broken voting system, it’s more dysfunctional than ever. Wright, 90, has voted every year since 1944. But he realized last week that his driver’s license had expired. Wright has a faculty ID from Texas Christian University, where he teaches political science, but Texas’s voting law doesn’t accept university IDs. So he went Saturday to a government office to get a state ID card. But he was told he’d need to come back Monday with a certified copy of his birth certificate. Wright told msnbc that he was finally able to get his ID on Monday. But he worries about others who may not be able to take as much time. “I think you become a bit discouraged and dismayed and confused, and throw up your hands and say, ‘I’m not going to vote,’” said Wright, a Democrat who served as Speaker in the 1980s and was one of a minority of Texas congressmen who voted for the 1965 Voting Rights Act. In fact, Wright said he thinks dissuading voters is the point of the law. “I do believe that there’s an apprehension on their part, unreasonably so, of too many people voting. I hate to say that.”
Texas: Voter ID Law Ensnares Former Speaker of the House, Candidates for Governor, State Judge | The Nation
Former Speaker of the House Jim Wright has voted in every election since 1944 and represented Texas in Congress for thirty-four years. But when he went to his local Department of Public Safety office to obtain the new voter ID required to vote—which he never needed in any previous election—the 90-year-old Wright was denied. His driver’s license is expired and his Texas Christian University faculty ID is not accepted as a valid form of voter ID. To be able to vote in Texas, including in Tuesday’s election for statewide constitutional amendments, Wright’s assistant will have to get a certified copy of his birth certificate, which costs $22. According to the state of Texas, 600,000 to 800,000 registered voters in Texas don’t have a valid form of government-issued photo ID. Wright is evidently one of them. But unlike Wright, most of these voters will not have an assistant or the political connections of a former Speaker of the House to help them obtain a birth certificate to prove their identify, nor can they necessarily make two trips to the DMV office or afford a birth certificate. The devil is in the details when it comes to voter ID. And the rollout of the new law in Texas is off to a very bad start. “I earnestly hope these unduly stringent requirements on voters won’t dramatically reduce the number of people who vote,” Wright told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “I think they will reduce the number to some extent.”
Former U.S. House Speaker Jim Wright was denied a voter ID card Saturday at a Texas Department of Public Safety office. “Nobody was ugly to us, but they insisted that they wouldn’t give me an ID,” Wright said. The legendary Texas political figure says that he has worked things out with DPS and that he will get a state-issued personal identification card in time for him to vote Tuesday in the state and local elections. But after the difficulty he had this weekend getting a proper ID card, Wright, 90, expressed concern that such problems could deter others from voting and stifle turnout. After spending much of his life fighting to make it easier to vote, the Democratic Party icon said he is troubled by what he’s seeing happen under the state’s new voter ID law. “I earnestly hope these unduly stringent requirements on voters won’t dramatically reduce the number of people who vote,” Wright told the Star-Telegram. “I think they will reduce the number to some extent.”