This morning, Texas Governor Rick Perry signed SB 14, which will institute strict photo-ID requirements for anyone wishing to vote in the state. Project Vote Executive Director Michael Slater issued the following statement in response:
Presented under the guise of addressing the mythical threat of “voter impersonation,” the real effect and intent of this legislation will be to disenfranchise tens of thousands of Texas voters, particularly young voters, seniors, and low-income residents.
SB 14 requires every voter to present a specific form of Texas identification, from a very limited list of options, including a driver’s license, a state ID card, a military ID, or other government issued photo identification. While this may sound like a reasonable requirement in a society that requires photo ID for routine transactions, we must remember that voting is a right, not a privilege. Setting up new hurdles that otherwise eligible voters must jump on their way to vote is a severe blow to our democracy.
What this law will do is cost Texas tax payers millions of dollars, and accomplish nothing except to disenfranchise eligible voters. According to a Brennan Center survey, up to 11% of United States citizens do not have unexpired or recently expired government-issued photographic identification of the types required by SB 14. The requirement will be especially hard on low-income 18-24 year olds (including students), low-income citizens, senior citizens, and voters living in urban areas—all of whom are less likely to have photo ID.
What this law will not do is prevent a single instance of voter fraud. A review of Texas law enforcement efforts to find voter fraud—including a comprehensive effort by the Attorney General that ended in 2008—found absolutely no voter fraud that would be stopped by requiring photo identification. The few cases of voter fraud prosecuted in Texas have involved mail-in ballots, which SB 14 does not address.
The signing into law of SB 14 represents a setback for democracy in the State of Texas, and another blow delivered in what has become a nationwide assault on voting rights. Republican lawmakers have introduced voter ID legislation in 32 states this year, despite its expense, in direct contradiction to research that shows voter impersonation to be virtually non-existent, and with complete disregard for the thousands of eligible voters who will be prevented from casting a ballot.