As the 2017 Texas legislative session winds down, the way Texans will vote remains in flux. There’s a new voter identification law headed to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk, but it’s unclear whether it will pass muster in federal court. A bigger voting rights issue, which threatens the state’s entire congressional map, remains unaddressed, also with a pending court case. In that one, the state faces charges of illegally diluting the votes of the state’s black and Latino populations. On Sunday afternoon, the Texas House of Representatives finally signed off on Senate Bill 5, the seemingly dead revision of the state’s 2011 voter ID bill that Abbott revived as a priority last week. The bill is mostly the same as the 2011 measure and requires that all Texans hoping to vote present a state driver’s license or ID card, a concealed handgun license, a U.S. passport, a military ID card, a U.S. citizenship certificate or an election identification certificate. However, it also adopts similar remedies to those put in place by U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos for the 2016 general election after she ruled that the 2011 measure discriminated against minority voters.
Last fall, those who voted without IDs signed affidavits attesting to their inability to obtain identification under the penalty of perjury. SB 5 will allow voters without approved photo identification to do something similar moving forward. If a voter can provide a utility bill or mail received from the government with his or her name and address on it, he or she will be allowed to sign an affidavit attesting to the reason for his or her inability to get ID.
The state hopes that the new law, which Abbott is expected to sign in the next couple of weeks, will persuade Ramos not to place Texas under “preclearance status” when it returns to court next month to fight a lawsuit against the 2011 law. States placed in preclearance, established by the Voting Rights Act of 1964, are required to seek federal approval for any changes made to voting laws.
Full Article: Texas 2017 Voting Rights Roundup | Dallas Observer.