Monday, October 24, 2011

Voter Photo ID Requirement Public Notification Starts With The Constitutional Amendment Election

Fliers notifying voters about the new photo identification requirement to vote starting in 2012 will be handed out during the upcoming November 8th Constitutional Amendment Election.

Last May Governor Rick Perry (R) signed SB14 into law requiring voters to present a limited selection of unexpired government issued photo identification to qualify to vote in Texas elections.

Because Texas had a history of voting rights discrimination, the state is required to have any changes to its election laws pre-cleared by the U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ), or the courts, under Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

A Justice Department decision could determine whether the law goes into effect on January 1, 2012, as scheduled.

The back and forth between the U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ) Civil Rights Division's voting rights section, the Texas Secretary of State's (TXSOS) office, the Texas Democratic Party and various organizations opposed to the photo ID legislation promises to extend the USDOJ pre-clearene decision process to, perhaps, late December, or beyond.

Like the TXSOS, and election officials in all the other Texas counties, Collin County officials are waiting to see whether the state’s new voter photo ID law is cleared by the USDOJ before completing plans to educate voters about the new SB14 voting photo ID requirements:

  • Starting September 1, 2011 the Secretary of State, and the voter registrar of each county shall provide notice of the ID requirements for voting in each language in which voter registration materials are available.
  • For all elections occurring after January 1, 2012 the specified government issued photo identification must be presented to polling place election clerks.

All IDs must be unexpired or expired no earlier than 60 days before the election. Acceptable identification includes:

  • A driver’s license, election ID certificate, or personal ID card issued to the person by the Department of Public Safety (an election certificate issued to a person 70 years or older does not expire);
  • U.S. military ID card that contains the person's photograph;
  • U.S. citizenship certificate issued to the voter with their photograph;
  • U.S. passport; or
  • A license to carry a concealed handgun.

*Student IDs and Veteran IDs are not accepted in Texas for purposes of identification for voting.

Summary information on Senate Bill 14 may be found in TXSOS Advisory 2011-10

Voter outreach groups, like the non-partisan Advocacy Alliance Center of Texas, are also waiting on the USDOJ's decision before beginning efforts to educate voters about the new voting law.

“We really need to educate, engage and empower the community about the issue of voter ID,” said Eliza Alvarado, a director for the non-partisan Advocacy Alliance Center of Texas group that was formed this year to boost Rio Grande Valley voter turnout to the state average. “But we’re waiting to see what the outcome is before we come up with a plan of action.”

While the law’s precleance status has put some of the TXSOS’s and county level public education initiatives on hold, because the law can’t be fully implemented until it is cleared by the USDOJ, state and county officials are moving forward to develop a voter education program, incase the law is ultimately approved by the USDOJ, or the Supreme Court, on appeal.

According to Sharon Rowe, Collin County's election registrar, the TXSOS has authorized county election officials to have poll workers hand out informational fliers on the new photo ID voter requirements to people who vote in the November 8th Constitutional Amendment Election. Voters who qualify to vote using an ID document other than one of the photo ID documents specified by the SB14 law will be given a flier notifying the voter this is the last election that ID document may be used to vote.

But for this November 8, 2011 Constitutional Amendment Election all you need to vote is your voter registration certificate or any of the many other acceptable forms of ID specified by current election law.

Below is the Voter Photo ID Public Notification Flier poll workers will hand out during the 8Nov11 election:

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