Texas election Judge William Parsley told Emily Atkin at Think Progress that he had only seen one person turned away during the first six days of early voting at his downtown Houston polling station. In fact, there have been plenty of rejects.
That fellow Parsley rejected was a 93-year-old veteran whose driver's license had expired. Under the strict new Texas voter ID law that the U.S. Supreme Court gave a thumbs-up to, a current driver's license is one of the seven forms of identity accepted for voting. Those forms of identification—passport, military ID, veteran ID, non-driver's Texas ID, special voter's ID, a Texas gun license—exclude tribal IDs and student IDs. Out-of-date IDs are only acceptable if they have been expired for 60 days or less. Voter advocates estimate at least 600,000 Texans don't have any of the mandated IDs. For many people without the right ID there are financial and other obstacles to acquiring one:
The man Parsley said he had to turn away was a registered voter, but his license had been expired for a few years, likely because he had stopped driving. Parsley said the man had never gotten a veteran’s identification card. And though he had “all sorts” of other identification cards with his picture on it, they weren’t valid under the law—so the election judges told him he had to go to the Department of Public Safety, and renew his license.
“He just felt real bad, you know, because he’s voted all his life,” Parsley said.
Sympathy does little good with unbendable rules. Those rules were designed to discriminate, according to federal district Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos, who wrote the scathing 147-page ruling
that the U.S. Supreme Court tossed aside October 18 to give Texas the go-ahead on its new law. That voter ID law, passed in 2011, originally was blocked under the pre-clearance provision of the Voting Rights Act. But the Supreme Court trashed that VRA provision in a 2013 ruling.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote a fiery dissent over the Court's Texas ruling 10 days ago:
The District Court noted particularly plaintiffs’ evidence—largely unchallenged by Texas—regarding the State’s long history of official discriminationin voting, the statewide existence of racially polarized voting, the incidence of overtly racial political campaigns,the disproportionate lack of minority elected officials, and the failure of elected officials to respond to the concerns of minority voters.
The greatest threat to public confidence in elections in this case is the prospect of enforcing a purposefully discriminatory law, one that likely imposes an unconstitutional poll tax and risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters.
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There are more rejection stories below the orange obstacle course.
While Parsley may have only seen one would-be voter turned away, there have been others. The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law has collected a few stories in this regard. Some samples:
Jesus Garcia was born in Texas and lives in Mercedes. He was unable to vote with his driver’s license, which expired about a year ago. He went to the Weslaco Department of Public Safety (DPS) office twice and both times was unable to get an ID. His birth certificate was stolen and he does not have a copy. He wants to get identification, but to get both a replacement birth certificate and a new ID would be more than $30 combined. He is working a lot of hours, but money is tight. With rent, water, electricity, and everything else, Mr. Garcia is not sure he will be able to afford those documents, much less before the election.
Even if he does have the money, he will need to go through the whole process of getting the documents and going to the office again, when he has already tried to vote once and gone to a DPS office twice. Mr. Garcia thinks it is unfair that he cannot vote with the documents he has. He was born here and he has an ID with his picture on it; it’s just expired. He has a voter registration card, and voted in past elections.
Krystal Watson is a student at Wiley College in Texas, a historically black college. She is originally from Louisiana and has voted in past elections in Texas. This year, she signed up as a deputy registrar and registered about 100 people to vote. The person who deputized her told her the registration rules but not about the new voter ID requirement. When she herself went to vote, she was not allowed to cast a ballot because she had a Louisiana driver’s license and a Wiley College ID, but not the ID required by the law.
Ms. Watson stated that she has observed many other students having trouble voting. She didn’t know whether she would have the time or resources to get an identification card, which would require her to bring in her birth certificate.
So, a purposely discriminatory law in a state that—until last year—couldn't have imposed any
new voting law without first pre-clearing it with the U.S. Department of Justice is now taking away individuals' right to cast ballots just as voter advocates said would happen. Rotten laws backed by rotten court rulings produce rotten results unless undermining democracy is the goal.
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