An interesting issue was recently brought up on Joseph Kulvaney’s blog regarding out-of-state driver’s licenses as voter ID. Apparently (and I did not know this until I read the blog), some Texans are required to maintain an out-of-state license, because they work in another state (Louisiana, e.g.). Since they have an out of state driver’s license, DPS won’t provide them with a Texas driver’s license unless they surrender the out-of-state license, even though they live in the state. And their out-of-state license is not an acceptable form of voter ID. They could obtain another form of voter ID, such as a passport or CHL; however, it would be easier to allow the license as a form of voter ID.
So what was the impact of voter ID? Well… mixed. Many voters were required to sign voter affidavits; however, turnout exceeded turnout in 2011, 2009 and 2007. The area where voter ID seems to have had a significant impact was the increase in provisional ballots (a 219 percent increase).
According to the Secretary of State:
"Officials said that statewide, 2,354 provisional ballots were cast this election, which is about 0.2 percent of voters. In the last off-year election, in 2011, there were 738, or 0.1 percent of the ballots cast that year." (Source)
Texas voter ID law requires that individuals without identification (or rather, proper identification) must cast a provisional ballot. If there was such an increase in this year, the impact will be greater next year during the gubernatorial election.
What will be interesting is to see is the turnout results by precinct, particularly precincts with majority minority populations. Hopefully someone with the time can analyse that (wish I could, but I’m currently swamped).
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has reported former Speaker Jim Wright was recently denied a voter ID card by the Texas Department of Public Safety. Wright, who was Speaker from 1986-1989, said he went to the DPS office after he realized his current identification would not satisfy voter ID requirements. Wright will be issued an ID card in time to vote in the election on Tuesday, November 5th after providing DPS with a copy of his birth certificate.
These requirements have raised concerns that some people will be prevented from voting, particularly if they do not have Wright’s resources. While there have been several stories regarding voter affidavit requirements, there have been no reports thus far of voter ID having a significant impact on this year’s elections.
Early in-person vote turnout is up across the state, including in large minority population counties (Source). The full impact of voter ID will be clearer after November 5th.
According to Dallas County election officials, 1 in 7 voters have signed a voter affidavit (meaning their name on their identification doesn’t match their voter registration). Most of the signers have been women. Dallas County officials are allowing voters to correct their voter registration to avoid problems in the future. They are also planning to add additional staff for the 2014 primaries and general to avoid any additional wait times resulting from this requirement.
We don’t yet know the full impact of voter ID, but early results don’t show an impact on turnout in the top 15 counties. Through October 30th [10 days], over 190,000 people have voted early in person (Source). Through 10 days in 2011, 106,811 people voted early in person (Source). Through 10 days in 2009, 114,344 people voted early in person (Source).
[Note: comparisons with 2009 & 2011 were made since they are also off-year elections]
So far, this hasn’t had much impact; however, as noted previously, these off year elections are low turnout. It’ll be interesting to see what happens next year when turnout is higher for the gubernatorial election (if Texas’ voter ID law is still in effect).
Last week, we learned about a judge who had to sign a voter affidavit in order to vote, because the name on her license did not exactly match her voter registration. Turns out, gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis did too and she was frustrated with it. The funny thing about the latter is Davis authored the amendment (FA 41) which required the affidavit (the amendment passed 30-0).
Over 140,000 people have voted early in the top 15 counties through October 28th (Source). So far, there haven’t been any reports of significant problems resulting from voter ID requirements (Source).
Early voting for the constitutional amendments ends Friday. Election day is November 5th. Get out and vote.
Previously, we discussed voter ID in the Edinburg city council elections; there were no issues there regarding turnout.
However, early voting has begun for Texas’ constitutional amendment election (and some local government elections), so we have another chance to see Texas’ voter ID in practice.
Early voting began Monday, and over 39,000 people voted in-person in the top 15 counties during the first two days (Source). One of those people was Judge Sandra Watts in Nueces County. According to a local report, Judge Watts had trouble voting because the name on her driver’s license differed from her voter registration.
In Watts’ case, the middle name on her driver’s license is her maiden name, while the middle name on her voter registration is her actual middle name. The judge had to sign a voter affadavit affirming her identity and was allowed to vote (contrary to the TX Democratic Party’s claim that she was prevented from voting). The judge could have also voted provisionally if she chose not to sign the affidavit.
Off-year elections are generally low turnout (e.g., turnout was 5.37 percent of registered voters in 2011), so this will probably not have a significant impact on lines and vote times though there will be some impact. Diana Barrera, a Nueces County election official, said, “It will slow the process down, I would imagine, because they will have to fill out a little bit more information on the provisional vote envelope, so it can affect it” (Source).
The real question is what is the impact moving forward to 2014 when turnout is higher.
In relation to Judge Watts’ situation, some have suggested there is a 19th Amendment issue, because they believe some women will be discriminated against if they haven’t updated their photo ID (Source). However, as with Judge Watts, these voters can sign an affidavit or vote provisionally (there are some other factual problems with this article).
On the legal front, the Justice Department is continuing its efforts to block Texas’ voter ID law (Source).
And finally, if you do happen to live in Texas, please contact your local election officials and find out what you need to vote. And don’t forget to vote in the constitutional amendment election: here are the issues.
Early voting has begun for Edinburg’s city council special election, and Texas’ new voter ID is in full effect. So far, it hasn’t had an impact, and election officials have reported no complaints. The McAllen Monitor reported, “Voter turnout is consistent with the first day of early voting in the last special election for a City Council position in May of 2012.” Edinburg presents an interesting test of Texas’ new law, because according to the U.S. Census, the city is 88 percent Hispanic. This is a local special election (meaning turnout will be low), so the results shouldn’t be read as having an application to a general election. However, it will be worth watching.
In one case. The 4th District Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that Wisconsin’s voter ID requirement did not violate the state constitution (Source). The court ruled that the League of Women Voters, who brought the case, presented no evidence that the new requirements presented a burden to voters. This case was contrasted with a similar case brought by the NAACP, who allege at least 300,000 voters could be disenfranchised (Source). Since there are other cases involving voter ID, this ruling doesn’t settle the issue. You can read the full ruling here.
During the debate over Voter ID, which I have endured ever since I began working in and around the Pink Building (about a decade now), photo ID requirements have been compared to poll taxes; the implication being that photo ID requirements would have a similar effect on turnout.
So, what were the effects of the poll taxes? In Texas, after the implemention of the poll tax, turnout dropped by over one-third (Wilkison, p. 169). In 1904, Cecil Lyon, a TX Republican leader, wrote to Theodore Roosevelt that “out of a colored population of some 650,000 not more than 25,000 qualified voters” (Barr, pp. 207-08). It should be noted that V.O. Key noted a sharp decline in Texas voter turnout began prior to the poll tax (Key, p. 534-35).