At least 16,400 Texans who voted in the November election wouldn’t have been able to cast ballots if the state’s voter identification law had been in full effect, state voting records show. Adopted in 2011 by a Republican-dominated Legislature, the law requiring voters to show one of seven forms of photo identification has been mired in a years-long legal battle, with opponents arguing that it disenfranchises groups that are less likely to carry identification, such as young people, elderly people and racial minorities. Proponents of the law have argued that the measure is necessary to protect the integrity of the vote. In July, a federal appeals court ruled that the law was discriminatory, and a month later U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos ordered the state to soften the ID requirements for the Nov. 8 election, greatly expanding the types of documentation voters could show to prove their identity. Voters using one of the newly approved documents had to sign statements explaining why they couldn’t obtain one of the seven types of ID originally required by the law.
It is difficult to measure the impact of voting laws for a variety of reasons, but the last-minute compromise provides a case study for how many people would have been affected by the voter ID law.
Through a public records request to the Texas secretary of state’s office, the American-Statesman obtained copies of the more than 16,400 Reasonable Impediment Declarations signed by Texans in the November election. More than 2,300 of the forms, legal affidavits punishable with a perjury charge if found to be false, were signed by Travis County voters.
The voters who signed the affidavits were concentrated in urban areas, with six counties alone — Harris, Travis, Dallas, Collin, Tarrant and Hidalgo — accounting for more than half of them.