Another Media Misrepresentation: The Texas Voter ID Law
I’ve heard a lot of rhetoric on the controversial Texas voter ID law claiming that it’s politically and racially biased. Because I attacked a Republican on this topic, I figured I’d give some equal time. This law was passed long before the election itself (last year), allowing ample time for a court challenge (ongoing) and then ample time after that to comply with however the court rules. As a result, my bullshit alert went off when I heard how this was a backdoor, racist attempt at suppressing minority votes.
The requirement that voters prove they are legally permitted to vote seems reasonable on its face – in fact, it’s almost certainly required under the Equal Protection clause (q.v.) – and it wasn’t a last minute attempt to change the law. So, I decided to research just a couple of the suspicious issues that were raised. It’s amazing how some simple internet research completely changes the picture painted by the talking heads.
Why Are Concealed Carry Permits Acceptable IDs, but University IDs Aren’t?
In short, because concealed carry permits provide proof of identity, residency, and the right to vote, whereas student IDs provide only proof of identity.
As of January, 2008, obtaining a concealed carry permit in Texas requires:
- A completed application form.
- Two Recent Color Passport Photographs. (That is, the permit is a photo ID.)
- Proof of age (at least 21).
- Proof of residency in Texas.
- A handgun proficiency certificate from a qualified handgun instructor.
- An affidavit stating that applicant has read and understands the law concerning a license to carry and the laws on use of deadly force and that the applicant fulfills all eligibility requirements.
- And an authorization to access records. (This relates to the fact that a criminal background check is always performed.)
So, having a carry permit is proof that you’re eligible to vote in the state election (i.e., you’re a resident that has no serious criminal record or other restriction of rights) and has your photograph on it (i.e., is proof of identity).
On the other hand, as of today, getting a University of Texas student ID requires:
- You’re a student; and
- A government-issued photo ID. (Note, foreign governments are governments.)
So, the ID proves your identity, but there’s absolutely no indication that your right to vote hasn’t been legally taken away, and there’s absolutely no indication whether you’re actually a Texas resident. In fact, it doesn’t even require that you’re a US citizen!
Similarly, Social Security cards are also not accepted, but everyone should know that these aren’t photo IDs, so there’s no proof of identity with them. You might as well be asking them to accept your library card.
I guarantee you that the talking heads making such a big deal out of this are fully aware of these significant differences, but convention wisdom suggests that criminals and non-citizens have a tendency to vote democratic, so they’re trying to (mis)characterize this as “getting Republican votes” because gun owners are Republican. In Texas, almost everyone’s a gun owner.
I have nothing against, for example, Japanese nationals, but they shouldn’t be voting in America simply because they’re taking classes at one of our universities. Am I a racist for saying so?
Besides, almost everyone is going to prove their age and residency in Texas using their driver’s license or state ID card, so allowing the use of the concealed carry permit isn’t going to increase the number of voters anyway. This is nothing more that cheap politicking.
If People Aren’t Required to Provide ID for Absentee Voting, Why Does the Requirement Exist for in Person Voting?
Good question. You do have to provide an ID for absentee voting. Sort of.
In order to vote via absentee ballot in Texas, you must fill out an application. If you’re out of the country because of a death in the family, you’re required to sign an affidavit as part of the application, and notarizations require IDs to perform. However, there are three other situations in which you may vote absentee, and none of them require you to include a copy of your ID unless you’re a first time voter in Texas.
Cutting to the chase, this is a huge loophole. It’s possible that you could fill out an absentee ballot and not provide an ID in order to vote. My guess as to why this loophole isn’t closed is because there’s an application process, which in turn raises a red flag on your name. In other words, they’ll be watching for you. If you show up to the voting site, they’ll know you already voted absentee. Additionally, you had to have voted in Texas before, and to have done that, you would have had to prove residency and identity. If you’re subsequently convicted of a serious crime or otherwise have your right to vote taken away, Texas is relying on their Department of Corrections or State’s Attorney office to notify the relevant County Clerk of the change. Okay, I can live with that assuming it’s done reliably, and none of us are in a position to deny that it is.
However, the laws don’t prevent a fake voter from mailing or faxing an application to the County Clerk with a real voter’s name, as no copy of an ID or proof of current residency would be required, nor would a notarized statement be required. The ballot could be sent to the fake voter’s address, and then the fake voter could vote on behalf of the real voter without the real voter’s knowledge. Seriously, why isn’t this happening in every election? (I bet it is in very small numbers.)
In the end, this loophole means that the new voter ID law isn’t going to accomplish what it wants to accomplish because some people can vote without any ID. That should bother you, but only because you should want people to prove who they are, where they live, and whether they retain the right to vote. Currently, even the new Texas voter ID law doesn’t accomplish that. That is, Texas (and so many other states) hasn’t done enough to protect the right to vote. Why do you oppose the measures they actually have taken?
Oh right. Fraudulent voting generally favors Democrats. Well, I guess that makes it right.
What Did You Mean by the Equal Protection Clause Reference?
I haven’t read it in a while, but the Bush v. Gore case, at its heart, was an Equal Protection case. It stood for the proposition that election processes must be fair and orderly because it would violate your right to Equal Protection if someone were able to vote more than once. If they did, your right to vote would mean less than their right to vote, and that’s not equal protection. Maybe you disagree with how that principle was applied in Bush v. Gore – a silly concern considering that most of you didn’t bother to read the case and learn the facts – but that’s an important legal requirement. Requiring identification of a voter certainly goes a long way toward providing a fair and orderly election process.
So What’s the Problem?
Let’s, for once, be straight with one another. Suppressing votes generally favors Republicans, and adding extra votes generally favors Democrats. How much of an impact each has, I don’t know, and I doubt most of my readers do, so let’s not pretend we know. The point here is that Texas Republicans are trying to cut down on the extra votes, and Democrats are claiming that this suppresses legitimate votes. Based on what I’ve gone over here, the only votes that are being suppressed are lazy votes. It’s not hard to get IDs, and stop pretending it is just because there’s a few people who have medical conditions that make them immobile. (By the way, there are exceptions for legitimate hurdles such as immobility, so really, that’s a weak argument.) If a legitimate voter wants to vote, they don’t have to do much to make that happen, and the cost of letting them get out of that responsibility is far too high. It’s the illegitimate voters that are going to have some real trouble under this law. Good.
You should be spending your time fighting for this in your state, not opposing it in other states. If anything, Texas hasn’t gone far enough. We’ll soon find out whether the courts have legitimate reasons for striking down this law. I haven’t researched the law deeply enough to determine where I stand on other potential issues with it. However, the real message here is that the talking heads on the news programs are misrepresenting the facts on the types of ID allowed, which is meant to serve their own political interests.
Yes, I know . . . .
Follow me on Twitter @RobertEBodine