By Maurice E. Duhon, Jr.
On Wednesday night, the Texas Senate passed Senate Bill 14. The republican sponsored “I.D. Bill”
The “ID Bill” or (SB 14) legislation will now proceed to the republican majority Texas House, which also is expected to approve the bill. Two years ago, almost evenly divided between democrats and republicans, the Texas House chose to keep a previous Texas Senate voter ID bill suppressed or “bottled up” in political terms, never allowing the bill to be brought to the State Senate floor. If signed into Law, this bill will make Texas one of the most voter restrictive states in our nation.
Voter restriction is not a popular trend, obviously due to the definition of the word restrict; to put within bounds or to confine within limits. Translated, this law would basically state, you MUST provide “state approved” photo identification in order to be ALLOWED to vote. Just remember, a Student I.D. will not be accepted, but you can use your gun license?
Texas voter fraud is not and has not been a plague upon our Texas voting system, so I am forced to ask; With Texas’ $27 BILLION budget deficit, nearly 9 percent unemployment, and an initial budget which proposes severe budget cuts that will devastate our schools, worsen our health care crisis, and lead to nearly 100,000 more lost jobs, why have our elected Texas State officials chosen to make solving a non-existent problem a very-existent priority?
During the six years this “I.D. Bill” has been debated, supporters of the I.D. voting requirement have emphasized the importance of changing the law to prevent voter identification fraud, but have yet to find a single example of voter impersonation that would be combated by this new restriction. Study after study has shown that tens of thousands of legally-registered Texas voters do not have a photo ID. Those same studies show that these voters will be disproportionately minority, poor, disabled or elderly.
Those whom are weary about the I.D. requirement to vote have every right to wonder why this new law seems necessary and how a voter I.D. requirement at the polls could simply remove their CONSTITUTIONAL right to Vote. Please remain well informed and understand that in America today it is not illegal to be a U.S. Citizen and not have an I.D. while standing on U.S. soil. Of course, if an officer of the law is accusing you of committing an offense and you cannot provide evidence of identification, that officer may charge you with a “failure to produce ID”, but that is hypothetical and that would be requiring you to present I.D. because you are the suspect of a crime. Last time I checked, voting was not a crime.
If or when this bill is signed into Law, Texans will be required to show a “state approved” photographic ID before they vote. This action will make it significantly more difficult for hundreds of thousands of legally-registered and eligible Texans to exercise their constitutional right to vote. What about the registered Voter that happens to unfortunately have their wallet or purse stolen near the days of an election? What about the registered Voter who may have accidently lost their I.D. while enjoying a carnival ride, or forgot their wallet or purse at a restaurant near the days of an election? What about the college student that does not drive and has no other need that requires said college student to attain a Texas I.D., how will that student be allowed to Vote? Too bad the college student didn’t have a concealed handgun license of course? The bill states Concealed handgun licenses are acceptable.
I must also mention those Americans who may owe any money to the Texas Department of Public Safety. If DPS has taken your license or I.D. because of a failure to pay whatever tickets or fines you may or MAY NOT have accumulated, most likely they will not be issuing you a photo I.D. Sure everyone should pay their traffic fines and if you drove with a suspended license you did a bad thing, but I still believe you shouldn’t lose your CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS of U.S. Citizenship because you owe the Texas DPS an “amount” of money.
With both cynical and logical thought I have only been able to comprehend, that in the midst of a national economic recession/depression and a $27 BILLION dollar state debt, the Texas Department of Public Safety’s financial coffers have been deemed more important and have taken precedence over the American Citizen’s CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT to Vote. A Right enshrined in our nation’s Constitution and for which hundreds of thousands of Americans died earning or defending. This solemn Right, the hub of our Democracy and the foundation on which the very ideal and basis of Democracy stands, allows EVERY Citizen to exercise their most important of Civil Duties and Liberties and cast their one Vote.
If this Texas “Law” is passed, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, our great nation’s 32nd President, the man that helped America rise out of the grotesque grips of a total economic depression, would once again turn over within the confines of his hallowed grave. If FDR were alive today, he would rue the day, identification of gun ownership was made more worthy of proving United States Citizenship than one’s United States Social Security Card.
You will hear supporters of this I.D. voting requirement state that Texas’ “I.D. Bill” mirrors the Indiana Bill that required an I.D. to vote. Indiana did pass an “I.D. Bill”, but Indiana’s version was passed into Law with many various protections and safeguards for Indiana’s registered Voters. Please be aware that every amendment that was added to the Texas “I.D. Bill” to mirror Indiana’s voter protections and safeguards were defeated in Texas and were not added to the Texas bill. Voter I.D. supporters also promised “free IDs” to eligible Texas voters who cannot afford them, then killed every amendment to publicize or make these IDs available. The Texas “I.D. Bill” is no twin or even a close relative to the Indiana “I.D. Bill” and furthermore aren’t we all aware that “Everything is bigger in Texas”?
The issue we know to be the greatest source of voter fraud, absentee ballots, were not discussed or reformed in this “I.D. Bill” debate, so it seems as if the State of Texas is attempting to “solve” a problem that does not exist, and choosing to ignore the problem that does.
I’m assuming the one amendment that survived was the amendment to allow the elderly to vote without I.D. But one is forced to ask; what is the definition of “elderly” if the “elderly” person doesn’t have proof of their age with them when arriving at the polls? Someone one year below the accepted age of “elderly” will be treated differently than their peers and any “elderly” person who has “aged well” may be deemed as not “elderly enough” and forced to provide further photo documentation in order to Vote.
Please allow me to also quickly add that many of the acceptable forms of I.D. that will be allowed at the polls require some form of payment, by the Citizen, to cover their costs. In simple terms, a U.S. Citizen will be required to pay a sum of money to attain identification that will allow them to vote.
Those of you whom suffer from “political astuteness” will be inclined to remember the infamous “poll tax” that was implemented during our county’s shameful Jim Crow Era. This poll tax, along with unfairly implemented literacy tests and extra-legal intimidation, achieved the desired effect of preventing African-Americans, Native Americans, and poor whites immigrants from voting in elections.
In 1937, in the case of Breedlove v. Suttles, the U.S. Supreme Court found the poll tax to be constitutional. The 24th Amendment, ratified twenty seven years later in 1964, abolished the use of the poll tax, or any other tax, as a pre-condition in voting in Federal (National) elections, but made no mention of poll taxes in state elections.
In the 1966 case of Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections the Supreme Court overruled its decision in Breedlove v. Suttles, and extended the prohibition of poll taxes to state elections, declaring that the imposition of a poll tax in state elections violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution.
On February 9 of 1966, Texas’ poll tax law was declared unconstitutional by Federal courts.
You will find no conclusion within these writings. You must make your own conclusion. Is this I.D. requirement just or unjust? Is this I.D. requirement extremely needed or not needed at the moment. Particularly right now, at this very moment, is this “I.D. Bill”, paid for with your tax dollars, the most pressing and important issue that faces Texas and our United States of America?
Today and tomorrow millions of Americans will struggle with the issues of home foreclosure, bankruptcy, rising debt, lowered wages, joblessness, lack of health care, lack of mental health care, rising food prices, rising fuel prices, and a low-performing school system. Today and tomorrow many Texans will come to realize that their debt owed to the Texas Department of Public Safety, large or small, has caused them to be considered “less of an American”. If one is unable to pay a DPS debt, has no passport, and no handgun license and their right to vote has been stripped away from them, is this person still an American Citizen? Is this person being sentenced to “social death”? Yes, it is a real phrase, please “Google it”.
Our nation’s low Voter turn-out numbers will now fall to even lower numbers than before. Our nation’s Voter turn-out will evolve into an even more dismal state.
Average United States voter turnout from the past nine presidential elections has been 54 percent, leaving the United States behind Australia, Malta (both 95%), Austria, Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg (90 percent or higher), Iceland, New Zealand, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Greece, Venezuela, the Czech Republic, Brazil, the Netherland, Costa Rica, Norway, Romania, Bulgaria and Israel (80-89%), Portugal, Finland, Canada, France, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Ireland, Spain, Japan (70-79%), and Russia reaching a level of 61 percent, after so many years of repression. Did we not teach these countries the process of Democracy? Do we now need a tutor for the subject?
If you have a DPS driver’s license be thankful you can vote, but remember those who don’t drive. If you have a passport, be thankful you can vote and remember some people don’t travel past Wal-Mart. If you have a DPS identification card be thankful you can vote, but remember some lack the amount of money to attain one and if you own a concealed handgun license, be thankful you can vote and don’t ever worry about the US telling you what to do because in our country a gun will always be more respected than any feeble bank account.
Enjoy these Helpful Facts found below:
- There are no DPS offices located in most inner-city neighborhoods in Texas. For instance, in Houston, there are no DPS offices located inside of the I-610 loop.
- According to the DPS Driver Responsibility Program, 1.2 million Texas drivers who have lost their licenses over surcharges cannot buy insurance until their fees are paid, but large numbers of them continue to drive. What’s worse, under the “I.D. Bill”, they wouldn’t have a form of ID required to vote.
- You can lose your license for very minor offenses. Unpaid surcharges, having no insurance, driving while license is invalid, passing a school bus, truancy or even simply failing to appear or pay a your fine for a traffic offense can lead to you having your license suspended. That is potentially hundreds of thousands of Texans, not a relative few.
- If you have a fine that has led to your license suspension, you have to pay DPS for the right to vote…not just your fine, but your surcharges and more. That may well violate the Voting Rights Act.
- None of the offices in Harris County are open on the weekend. Save for an occasional 7 pm closing time, all of them are open from 8 am to 5 pm – when people work.
- According to DPS, approximately 77 counties in Texas currently have no DPS center for voters, forcing Texans into long drives and more time in order to get a mandatory ID. This is a double burden for those with no vehicles or access to public transportation.
- According to testimony and studies, long lines and frustrating waits at DPS, and three or four hour waits aren’t out of the norm. “I.D. Bill” also doesn’t take into account proposed massive budget cuts, which will further increase over-tasked DPS employees.