I know I have written about this subject before but now that we are in the throes of early voting in Texas the abstraction of the strictest Voter Photo ID Law in the U.S. has become a frightening and stunning reality. 600,000 to 744,980 American citizens in Texas are not allowed to vote in November.
Let this sink in for a moment.
A federal judge in Corpus Christi had ruled the Texas Photo ID Law as intentionally discriminatory and one in which a poll tax is included.
"The Court holds that SB 14 creates an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote, has an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans, and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose," Gonzalez Ramos stated in her lengthy ruling issued Thursday. "The Court further holds that SB 14 constitutes an unconstitutional poll tax."
Of course this outcome is beyond outrageous but more mind blowing is the fact that the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and the John Roberts' corporations are people SCOTUS let it stand for the 2014 mid-term election. The excuse? Voters might be confused if changes were made to the law immediately prior to an election.
This is pure nonsense given the fact that until November 2013 Texans have not been required to produce a specific state issued photo ID in order to vote. It seems to me that the conservative justices on the 5th Circuit and the SCOTUS are more interested in protecting Republican candidates than they are the rights of the majority of American citizens.
Fortunately Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote a scathing dissent to the failure of the SCOTUS to overturn the outrageously discriminatory law. She made twelve major points. Below are a few of them.
1. This was a dispute about facts not fears. Unlike many other voting rights lawsuits, civil rights attorneys in this case did not sue without showing that there were real victims and harm. Ginsburg noted that important distinction writing that there had been a “full trial and resting on an extensive record from which the District Court found ballot-access discrimination by the State.”
2. But the Fifth Circuit Appeals Court ignored that. That’s right, judges in the first tier in the federal appeals court process decided to ignore the factual record. “The Fifth Circuit’s refusal to home in on the facts found by the district court is precisely why this court should vacate the stay.” (This case came to the Supeme Court because the Fifth Circuit ignored the district court and ruled that the voter ID law could take effect.)
3. Texas’ previous voter ID requirements are ample. Ginsburg noted that the state would not be left without any legal means to ensure eligible voters were getting ballots at polling places. “Texas need only reinstate the voter identification procedures it employed for 10 years (from 2003 to 2013) and in five federal elections.”
4. Texas officials have not informed the public about the new law. There has been a lack of public education about the new law, which will lead to confusion at the polls as it is implemented, Ginsburg noted. “The District Court found “woefully lacking” and “grossly” underfunded the State’s efforts to familiarize the public and poll workers regarding the new identification requirements.”
5. The state is to blame for confusion at the polls. Ginsburg said the state, which claims it needs the stricter photo ID laws to protect the process’ integrity, will instead be to blame for creating chaos and confusion. “In short, any voter confusion or lack of public confidence in Texas’ electoral process is in this case largely attributable to the State itself.”
6. The law concerns only polling place voting. This is an easily overlooked point, because the stricter voter ID laws do not effect people who vote by mail—which often is the way the Republican Party tries to turn out its base—but only people who show up at polling places. “The bill requires in-person voting to present one of a limited number of government-issued photo identification documents,” she wrote, noting that this list is narrower than what is accepted in other states, citing Wisconsin.
7. Hundreds of thousands of Texans will have a hard time getting the ID. The ID law says that Texans can get a state-issued photo ID from police, but only in certain locations. “Those who lack the approved forms of identification may obtain an “election identification certificate” from the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), but more than 400,000 eligible voters face round-trip travel times of three hours or more.”
This law is real and it is a travesty to our democracy.
Here are a couple of cases where American citizens in Texas will not be allowed to vote.
A World War II Purple Heart Veteran.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and the Texas GOP don't want my 90-year-old grandfather to vote.
A World War II veteran, he still bears the shrapnel he caught as a U.S. Marine in Okinawa. This injury earned him a Purple Heart. But he doesn't drive anymore, so he doesn't have a photo ID. Until now, he didn't have reason to need one.
My grandfather lives in a tiny, rural precinct where he and the poll workers have been friends for decades and go to church together, so they don't need some little laminated card to know who he is.
Now, my grandfather's friends will be forced to turn him away from the polls and deny him the right to vote - a right he fought and bled and nearly died for nearly 70 years ago.
My grandfather knows the value of a single vote. His father, my great-grandfather, served as county commissioner of that same tiny, rural precinct nearly a century ago. He was defeated in his bid for re-election by a mere 11 votes. That next commissioner was subsequently defeated by a single vote.
Once I explained to my grandfather that the people who have known him well for many years are now bound by law to turn him away because of a cruelly effective rule, designed to deny a fundamental American right and privilege (his word) to groups of people likely to vote Democratic just like him, his face fell. It was heartbreaking. It was as if I had told him he had lost his American citizenship.
Shame on the GOP for pushing this law, and shame on Abbott for defending it.
Although this veteran qualifies to vote by mail because of his age, chances are he very likely ignored the mail ballot application he received in the mail. Photo IDs are not required for mail in ballots. Those who are 65 or older and/or disabled can vote by mail. The WWII Purple Heart veteran likely prefers to vote in person and was unaware that he needed a state issued state ID. He won't be able to vote.
After all, this small government state hardly has a lot of robust outreach programs for voters. The opposite is true as noted in point four of Justice Ginberg's dissent.
Two more American citizens who have been denied their right to vote by Greg Abbott's Voter ID poll tax law:
The law would have made it extremely difficult for Texas Latinos such as 18-year-old twins Nicole and Victoria Rodriguez to vote, as groups argued in 2013. The young women at the time did not have driver's licenses since their parents could not afford car insurance, yet they had valid Texas birth certificates, high school IDs and Social Security identification. Still, they would not have been allowed to vote unless they traveled to a state office to get a special photo ID issued by the Department of Public Safety. Voting experts have pointed out the long distances and restricted hours of these state offices, which make obtaining the ID difficult for lower-income residents without cars as well as older voters.
The law has made it difficult for the twins to vote. They won't be able to vote, period.
A friend in N. Texas and a fellow political activist shared her struggle with getting her son, a college student, registered to vote. A Walk Through Hell.
Before I directly experienced the walk through hell that is required to obtain an approved voter ID, I wondered: what is the big deal? Like the majority of Americans and especially Texans, I was uninformed.
Experience is the best teacher.
My son will vote for the first time in this election. Although he has a student photo ID issued by his college, that form of photo ID is not approved for voting. To obtain his student photo ID, we had to supply the following documentation to prove his identity:
Social Security Card
Medical Shot Records
Proof of Residency
But, that’s not good enough to vote in Texas.
We arrived at the Texas Department of Public Safety TDPS in Plano, Texas before noon late last June. The temperature was 109 degrees.
Here are several snapshots of tweets
from the Texas November 2013 primary elections.
Texas has one of the strictest voter ID laws in the country, requiring voters to prevent photo identification with a name that "substantially" matches the name on the voter registration list. High-profile Texans, including ex-House Speaker Jim Wright and Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis, would have been unable to vote under the new law. But thanks to an amendment offered by Davis, voters whose names don't match—particularly women who've taken their husbands name—can sign an affidavit swearing under penalty of perjury that they are who say they are. While plenty of voters questioned why the law was such a big deal and said they had no trouble voting—others complained of having to sign affidavits:
Some voters said they couldn't vote at all because they didn't have proper identification:
And other voters were incorrectly denied the right to vote even though they had proper identification. "One Texas voter with a current voter registration card and multiple forms of ID was not allowed to vote because her driver's license was expired and her other state-issued ID card did not reflect her current address," says Stacie B. Royster, a spokesperson for Election Protection, a nonpartisan organization that tracks voter issues.
And Krissi Trumeter, who works for the Texas Observer, tells Mother Jones that her passport was denied despite being an accepted form of ID, and she was told she needed a Texas ID to vote. She says she was eventually allowed to vote after about 30 minutes but believes it may have been counted provisionally.
In one of his recent posts Meteor Blades summed up the state's shameful history of voter suppression
since the day the Civil War ended.
1895: The first all-white primaries begin. In the mid-1890s, Texas legislators pushed a law requiring political parties to hold primaries and allowing those political parties to set racist qualifications for who could participate.
1902: The poll tax. The Legislature added a poll tax to Texas' constitution in 1902, requiring voters to pay a fee to register to vote and to show their receipt of payment in order to cast a ballot. [...]
1922: Texas tries a new type of all-white primary. In 1918, black voters in Texas successfully challenged a nonpartisan all-white primary system in Waco. The state Legislature got around this snag by enacting a law banning blacks from all Democratic primaries. Because the Democratic Party was dominant in the South at the time, the candidate it selected through its primary would inevitably win the general election. Anyone voting in the party's primary had to prove "I am white and I am a Democrat."
1927: Texas tries a third type of all-white primary. After the Supreme Court struck down Texas' all-white Democratic primaries, the Legislature got crafty again, passing a new law that allowed political parties—instead of the state government—to determine who could vote in party primaries. The Texas Democratic Party promptly adopted a resolution that only whites could vote. [...]
1971: The state attempts to keep black students from the ballot box. Once 18-year-olds got the right to vote in 1971, Texas' Waller County became a majority black county. To stave off the wave of new African American votes, county officials fought for years to keep students at the county's mostly black Prairie View A&M University from accessing the polls. [...]
2011: And again. A year later, a three-judge federal court ruled in Texas v. United States that the state's local and congressional redistricting maps showed evidence of deliberate discrimination.
So, now that Texas is stuck with a outrageously discriminatory ID law during a gubernatorial election cycle, what can we do to overcome the travesty?
Turn out the vote. Those of us who do have the proper ID should vote like we have never voted before. Vote for the over 600,000 of our fellow American citizens who have been denied their participation in the precious democratic process. Simply because Texas Republicans are afraid of losing elections.
Take those who can vote but lack transportation to the polls. Which is what a friend and I are doing through the Texas Organizing Project. Yesterday we drove to the Third Ward in Houston and picked up a partially disabled woman with no transportation. She lives 2.8 miles from the closest early voting poll. When we reached the polling location there was a slight problem w/her ID as her last name was misspelled. But it was obvious Ms. Countess is Ms. Countess and so the clerk gave her the access code to vote. And vote she did.
There are ways to overcome the reprehensible acts of the morally bankrupted Texas Republican Party. Democrats will do this because in the end we are fairer and more tolerant than the likes of Rick Perry, Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick and Ken Paxton, to name a few. Of course being more fair and tolerant than these racist scoundrels is not much to brag about.
The ongoing efforts of Battleground Texas have heated up. This weekend all teams across the state are holding dress rehearsals for the big Strike Force that will take place from next Saturday through Election Day. I am actually making calls right now while I read Daily Kos. As the POTUS said in 2008, Democrats can walk and chew gum at the same time.
Hopefully the courts will right this horrible wrong after this election, though no one can predict what will come from the John Roberts court in which corporations are people and money is speech.