More than four years have passed since the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature passed a controversial voter ID law, one of the strictest in the nation. At the time, civil rights groups and Democrats pointed out that hundreds of thousands of Texans lacked a driver license or other government-sanctioned forms of photo ID, and that cost and access could be a barrier to acquiring them. In one of the few concessions to opponents, Republicans agreed to create a new form of ID, the election identification certificate (EIC). The EIC is free to any qualifying voter as long as you can produce some combination of an array of underlying documentation, such as a birth certificate, Social Security card and proof of residence. But years into the voter ID experiment, the EIC has been all but forgotten — by voters and by elections administrators alike.
In the three years since Texas began issuing EICs, the Department of Public Safety (DPS) has issued only 653 EICs across the state — only one ID for every 930 Texans who lack voter ID.
In a survey of 46 counties that issue their own EICs, the Observer found that many elections administrators had little to no familiarity with the ID, and some expressed surprise that anyone would inquire about it.
Most of Texas’ 254 counties have a DPS driver license bureau equipped to issue EICs. But at least 68 counties in rural, sparsely-populated parts of the state lack a DPS office. Of those, DPS deploys a mobile unit to 22. The remaining 46 counties issue EICs through their county offices. We were able to speak with elections personnel in 32 of those counties.