Both sides are already making claims and counterclaims about the impact of Texas’ strict voter ID law in last week’s election. There’s no question that some legitimate voters were disenfranchised by the law. But how many? Perhaps a large number — but the truth is, nobody knows. The difficulty of gauging the law’s effect, at least in the election’s immediate aftermath, points to an irony that has characterized the voter ID controversy nationally: Though lawyers challenging ID measures have marshaled reams of compelling evidence to show how they could keep voters from the polls, individual elections are not well-suited to demonstrating the impact. That’s not stopping partisans from jumping into the debate. At a post-election event last week, Gilberto Hinojosa, the chair of the Texas Democratic Party, said the ID law was “a large part of the reason” for the decline in state’s 2010 turnout (though he also said that Texans who didn’t turn out “need to look at yourself in the mirror”). His Republican counterpart, Steve Munisteri, just as confidently dismissed the idea. Around 600,000 registered Texas voters don’t have one of the limited forms of ID that the law allows, according to evidence presented at trial. The state did almost nothing to challenge that assessment. That means there’s no doubt whatsoever that the law disenfranchised legitimate voters. MSNBC met with several of them last week.
Say this for the state’s new voter ID law — it gave Texas Democrats a patsy for the thumping they got on election night. Some Democrats blamed the law for keeping their voters at home last week. At the same time, another type of voting was growing — one that is historically more likely to result in election fraud. In his bid for re-election last week, Senator John Cornyn finished 27.2 percentage points ahead of his Democratic opponent, David Alameel. Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican who led every public poll conducted during the race for governor, proved those surveys right, finishing more than 20 percentage points ahead of the much-vaunted Wendy Davis, a Democrat. Mr. Abbott finished with more raw votes and a higher percentage of the total than Gov. Rick Perry in 2010. Ms. Davis finished with both a lower percentage of the vote than her 2010 counterpart, Bill White, a Democrat, and a lower vote count. The overall number of votes cast in this year’s election was less than in 2010 — by about 271,000. Although that appears to be part of a national trend, Texas Democrats blamed the state’s voter ID law, which they say discourages people from showing up.
Anyone who hopes to vote in Texas this year needs an approved form of government-issued photo ID. Concealed handgun licences count; student IDs do not. The state’s Republican lawmakers introduced this requirement in 2011, arguing that it would prevent fraud and ensure the integrity of elections. They passed it over the objections of Democrats, who maintained that voter-ID laws are merely a cynical way to suppress turnout—especially among African-Americans, Hispanics and poor people—and who have continued to fight the law in court on that basis. The legal wrangling has thus far been inconclusive, and confusing. Texas was finally able to implement its voter-ID law in time for this year’s primaries, as a result of Shelby County v Holder, the Supreme Court decision in 2013 that struck down part of the Voting Rights Act (meaning that a number of states with a history of discriminating against minority voters, including Texas, no longer need the federal government to clear new voting restrictions). But then on October 8th a federal judge struck down Texas’s law on its own merits, ruling that insofar as some 600,000 registered voters in the state lacked the relevant forms of ID—about 4.5% of the state’s registered voters—the requirement was tantamount to a “poll tax.” On October 18th, though, with the early voting period set to begin about 48 hours later, the Supreme Court allowed the law to remain in place for the general election. Debate over the law promises to continue. But this year, for the first time, Texans will finally be able to assess its impact in practice.
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.
Texans are on the hook for $3.9 million in costs for Attorney General Greg Abbott to fight for Republican-championed redistricting maps, and that number will only grow as a years-long legal fight continues Monday in federal court in San Antonio. A big tally is expected in complicated redistricting litigation, experts say, particularly with the Abbott legal team’s aggressive defense of the congressional and legislative maps approved by the GOP-majority Legislature. “Abbott’s attitude has been very much ‘I’m going to litigate this to the ends of the earth,'” said Michael Li, redistricting counsel at the Brennan Center at New York University School of Law. Abbott’s staff said he simply is doing his job as the state’s top lawyer and that the responsibility for the costs lies with those who have challenged the maps. Democrats said Abbott is using taxpayer funds as an ATM to defend discriminatory maps. Minority and civil rights groups, including the League of United Latin American Citizens, Mexican American Legislative Caucus and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, originally mounted the redistricting challenges in 2011.
Texas Democrats are renewing their opposition to the state’s voter-identification law, rolling out a program to educate voters ahead of a decisive few months that could see the controversial statute become a top issue in the governor’s race. The law is considered one of the toughest of its kind in the country, requiring voters to show one of a few types of identification cards at the polls. Those whose actual names do not match the names on their IDs must sign an affidavit attesting to their identities. The gubernatorial campaign of state Sen. Wendy Davis, Battleground Texas and the Texas Democratic Party on Wednesday announced a “voter protection” program to tackle the issue by dispatching more than 8,000 volunteers to help with voter registration and making sure voters know what the law requires.
It’s far too soon to make any predictions. But a recent decision by a federal judge in the challenge to Texas’s harsh voter ID law may augur well for the chances of getting the law struck down when it goes to trial in September. Overturning the law would be a massive win for the Obama administration, which is spearheading the challenge, and could boost Democrats’ long-term hopes of competing in Texas. It would be an embarrassing defeat for Gov. Rick Perry and for Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is highlighting his defense of the law as he runs to succeed Perry as governor. The law, passed in 2011 with strong support from Perry, imposes the strictest ID requirement in the nation. It requires that Texans show one of a narrow range of state or federal IDs. Gun licenses are accepted, but student IDs, and even out-of-state driver’s licenses, aren’t. Finding that it would disproportionately affect minority voters, a federal court blocked the law in 2012 under the Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which required the state to get federal approval for its voting laws. But hours after the Supreme Court invalidated Section 5 last year, Abbott announced that the law would go into effect.
The Texas Secretary of State referred three complaints against Democratic group Battleground Texas for possible prosecution as violations of a state election law on Friday. Battleground Texas issued a statement, saying it has done nothing wrong and that the complaints and referrals were partisan attempts to slow the group. Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office, which would normally investigate further, recused itself and forwarded the complaints in a letter to Susan Reed, the district attorney in Bexar County, where one of the violations allegedly took place. Abbott is running for governor against Democrat Wendy Davis, whom Battleground Texas is assisting by registering voters, building a supporter database and ultimately mobilizing those voters for the Nov. 4 general election.
Opponents of Texas’ strict voter ID law are likely to get their day in court this September—meaning the controversial measure could be struck down before the November election. Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos indicated in a hearing Wednesday that she was reluctant to delay the trial until 2015, according to Jose Garza, a lawyer for the Mexican-American Legislative Caucus (MALC), which is among the plaintiffs challenging the law, known as S.B. 14. “The judge is fairly adamant that because of the impending election, it’s important to have a trial on S.B. 14 as early as possible,” Garza told reporters Wednesday afternoon, after attending the hearing. “And in her mind, that appears to be Sept. 2.” Garza said it’s “likely” that the judge will officially set Sept. 2 as the trial date at a hearing this Friday.
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.
Texas’ new voter ID laws could cause voting delays of up to six hours in upcoming elections. About 14,000 voters were delayed while attempting to vote in Dallas County on Nov. 5, the Dallas Morning News reported. Thousands of Texas voters signed affidavits or cast provisional ballots because their name on the voting rolls didn’t exactly match their name on their photo ID. The affidavit testifies that the voter is who they say they are. If a voter refuses to sign an affidavit, they could cast a provisional ballot. The number of provisional ballots — 1,365 — is more than double the number from a similar election in 2011. It is unclear how many people signed affidavits, but two of the leading candidates for Texas governor in 2013, Republican Greg Abbott and Democrat Wendy Davis, both had to sign them. Davis’ driver’s license reads “Wendy Russell Davis,” while Abbott’s says “Gregory Wayne Abbott.”
Delays at the polls this month due to glitches with voters’ identifications could signal a bigger problem to come next year, when many more turn out for state and county elections. Thousands of voters had to sign affidavits or cast provisional ballots on Nov. 5 — the first statewide election held under the state’s new voter identification law — because their name on the voter rolls did not exactly match the name on their photo ID. It took most only a short time, but election officials are concerned that a few minutes per voter to carefully check names and photos against voter registration cards, and then to have voters sign affidavits or fill out provisional paperwork, could snowball into longer waits and more frustration. A review by The Dallas Morning News found that 1,365 provisional ballots were filed in the state’s 10 largest counties. In most of them, the number of provisional ballots cast more than doubled from 2011, the last similar election, to 2013. Officials had no exact count for how many voters had to sign affidavits, but estimates are high. Among those who had to sign affidavits were the leading candidates for governor next year, Republican Greg Abbott and Democrat Wendy Davis.
For years, Stephanie Cochran has voted without any problems. But when she went to the polls Tuesday in her upscale, diverse neighborhood here, things went a lot less smoothly—thanks to Texas’ strict new voter ID law. On the voter rolls, she’s listed as Stephanie Gilardo Cochran, while on her driver’s license, she’s Stephanie G. Cochran—a mismatch common to married or divorced women including Wendy Davis, the likely Democratic candidate for governor next year. As a result, Cochran faced what she described as a barrage of questions from poll workers about the discrepancy. In the end, Cochran was able to vote by signing an affidavit in which she swore, on penalty of perjury, that she was who she claimed to be. But the experience left her angry: She told msnbc that she sees the law as an attempt to keep women from the polls. “It’s against us,” Cochran said. “It’s to keep us from voting for Wendy.”
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.
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.
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.”
Texas: Voter ID law frustrates some candidates; state argues lawsuit should be dismissed | Lubbock Avalanche-Journal
The new law requiring Texas voters show government-issued photo identification before casting a ballot is working as intended, according to state officials. And the proof is in the two weeks of early voting that ended Friday. “I gave my driver’s license and it went as advertised,” Gov. Rick Perry — whose full name is James Richard Perry — told reporters after he voted Wednesday. “The elections are going quite well,” Perry said. “As a matter of fact, we had a substantial bigger turnout from 2011.” This was in reference to the previous vote on constitutional amendments when less than 6 percent of Texas voters went to the polls. This year, the Texas Legislature is asking the electorate to approve nine propositions, particularly one that would allow the lawmakers to withdraw $2 billion from the Rainy Day Fund to begin funding water projects. However, for state Sen. Wendy Davis, who hopes to replace Perry when his current four-year term expires in early 2015, it was a slightly different experience when she voted Monday. Davis, D-Fort Worth, had to sign an affidavit before voting because the names on her voter registration card and driver’s license are slightly different: Wendy Davis on her voter card and Wendy Russell Davis on her driver’s license. The same thing happened to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, the perceived Republican frontrunner in the 2014 gubernatorial race: His name on his driver’s license is Gregory Wayne Abbott but on his voter card it’s Greg Abbott. End of the story in the two-year voter ID fight? Not quite.
Some states that have tightened their voter identification laws are using workarounds to avoid voting problems for women whose names have changed because of marriage or divorce – even as opponents of the laws warn there is still potential to disqualify female voters. Voter ID laws are intensely controversial: the Justice Department is currently suing Texas and North Carolina to block their new, stricter laws, and lawsuits in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have also prevented voter ID laws from being implemented. Legislators supporting voter ID laws say they are necessary to prevent voter fraud; opponents say laws requiring certain types of identification disproportionately affect minorities and the poor. They may also create problems for women who have changed their names after marriage or divorce, advocates say.
Wendy Davis could have been barred from voting by Texas’ strict voter ID law—along with her likely Republican opponent in next year’s governor’s race, too. That both will be able to cast ballots is thanks to a change in the law that Davis herself pushed. Davis, the Democratic candidate for governor next year, showed up Monday to vote early in her hometown of Fort Worth. Several constitutional amendments and other proposals are on the ballot in Texas this year. It’s the first election to be held under the state’s controversial voter ID law, which the U.S. Justice Department has challenged as racially discriminatory. But when the state senator got to her polling place, poll workers noted that the name on her driver’s license, Wendy Russell Davis, didn’t match that on her voter rolls, Wendy Davis. That meant that under the law, she was required to sign an affidavit swearing that she was who she said she was. “It was a simple procedure,” Davis told reporters afterward. “I signed the affidavit and was able to vote with no problem.” But it was thanks to Davis’ own efforts that she even had that option.
If not for Wendy Davis, Greg Abbott might not be able to vote. When Abbott, the Texas Attorney General running for governor as a Republican next year, goes to vote in state constitutional elections this year, he will have to sign an affidavit affirming his identity. That’s because Abbott’s driver’s license identifies him as Gregory Wayne Abbott, but on the voter rolls, he’s just Greg Abbott, a spokesman told the San Antonio Express-News. The discrepancy will mean Abbott has to sign the affidavit in order to get a ballot under a new law requiring voters in Texas to show an identification at the polling place. That part of the law, requiring a signature if there’s a discrepancy between names, was sponsored by state Sen. Wendy Davis (D), the opponent Abbott is likely to face in next year’s general election. Davis voted against the voter identification bill, even though she offered the amendment to allow for minor discrepancies. It’s a provision that many Texans are having to take advantage of this year — including Davis herself. When Davis showed up to vote Monday in Fort Worth, it turned out her driver’s license identified her as Wendy Russell Davis, while the voter rolls omitted her middle name.
Some Democrats in Texas are claiming that the state’s controversial new voter identification law could make it harder for women to cast their ballots. Texans will go to the polls on November 5 to vote on nine proposed amendments to the state constitution, and some areas are also holding local government elections. It is the first statewide vote since it became mandatory in Texas to show a government-issued photo ID at polling places. Some critics of the new law believe that women who have changed their name, for example after marriage or divorce, may be discouraged from voting or run into difficulties while trying. If a prospective voter’s name does not exactly match a name on the list of registered voters, it is up to the election officer at the polling station to determine whether the name is “substantially similar”. If so, the person will be allowed to cast a ballot after signing an affidavit attesting to his or her identity. Those without approved photo ID can vote “provisionally” and then have six days after election day to present acceptable proof to a county registrar.
Add gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis to the growing list of women who are having problems voting because of Texas’ new photo ID law. Davis, a Democratic state senator, was voting early in Fort Worth on Monday morning when poll workers made her sign an affidavit to verify her identity. Why? Her photo ID included her maiden name, Wendy Russell Davis. But voter registration records showed: Wendy Davis. Davis used the incident as an opportunity to tell the media who had gathered that women who have had name changes may be discouraged about voting.