Hurricane Harvey made landfall as a category four hurricane on the South Texas coast on August 25, 2017. Harvey was the first major hurricane to make landfall in the continental United States since Hurricane Wilma made landfall in 2005. The storm stalled over Texas through the next several days, dropping 51.88 inches and 27 trillion gallons of rain over parts of Houston, the state’s most populated city, and causing nearly $200 billion in damages spread from Rockport in South Texas to Beaumont near the Louisiana border. As those affected by the storm struggle to piece their homes, their livelihoods, and their families back together, one could not fault them for not thinking about how Harvey might affect their ability to vote in the upcoming November 2017 statewide elections (which mainly concern proposed amendments to the state constitution) or the 2018 statewide elections.
The latest voter ID law in Texas took effect on January 1, 2012. The law requires prospective voters to present an acceptable form of ID (generally some form of government issued photo ID), or that voters supply a “supporting document” such as a utility bill or a bank statement along with a declaration stating that they had some reasonable impediment to obtaining a photo ID.
Since its passage, the law has been embroiled in litigation. Most recently, in August, a federal district judge ruled that the law had both a discriminatory effect and intent towards minority voters. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals nonetheless ruled in September that Texas may use the voter ID law for the 2018 election, and a more recent order by that same court in October denying an en banc hearing of the appeal from the district court makes it a near certainty that the voter ID law will be used in 2018.