Thursday, September 20, 2012

Good Decision Striking Down TX's Voter ID Law

Texas’ new voter ID law was struck down by a 3-judge U.S.District Court panel. Having read the opinion I agree.  Although voter fraud and irregularity are real problems (see “Acorn” and “New Black Panther” cases) and political machines are often notorious for voter fraud, Texas’ law goes too far and is more stringent than laws previously upheld and empirically found to have no effect on voter turn out. See “Pravda’s” article here.  Basically, win-at-any-cost Republican legislatures are trying to overcome “win-at-any-cost” Democratic voter fraud by enacting over-the-top voter ID laws.  The Supreme Court, Crawford v. Marion County Election Board,553 U.S. 181(2008), and other courts have upheld some voter ID laws, but, IMHO this one goes too far.  Two wrongs don’t make a right.

My reasoning:
1.  I trust the Republican-dominated Texas legislature on this issue about as much as I trust Chicago and D.C. City Councils--at least when it comes to fair play.  The Repubs have a strong interest in depressing the low-income and minority votes (these folks tend to vote Democrat)
2. Associated costs are too high, esp relative to other states.(See opinion pp. 4-5, 26-7) Has this become a “poll tax?”  It strikes me that increasing voting participation is a good thing.  There should be minimal  costs, if any to vote.  The government should at least provide the required documents at minimal costs.
3.  Some applicants must go to a Texas DPS Office: As the opinion notes (p. 27):
“The United States submitted unrebutted evidence showing that "81 Texas counties have no [DPS] office, and 34 additional counties have [DPS] offices open two days per week or less." Proposed Findings of Fact by Eric Himpton Holder, Jr. ("U.S. Proposed Findings") Doc. 223 at 6, see also Am. Compl., ECF No. 25 Ex. 7 at 4. This means that in at least one-third of Texas's counties, would-be voters will have to travel out-of-county merely to apply for an EIC. Georgia and Indiana voters face no such burdens. Indeed, Georgia law requires each county to "provide at least one place in the county at which it shall accept applications for and issue [free] Georgia voter identification cards." Ga. Code Ann. ? 21-2-417.1(a). Similarly, every Indiana county has a BMV office that is required by law to disperse "free" photo IDs. See Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles, Branch Locations and Hours, available online at (last visited August 28, 2012)."
4.  The state of Texas has the legal burden of proof.  In light of the conflicting “empirical” evidence, they have not met that burden. The myth of "social social objectivity” is clearly demonstrated by the inconsistent research results.  Research where the investigator made a good faith effort to conduct unbiased research on hot-button topics is extremely hard to find.


  1. I don't know about requiring a photo ID, but I do feel strongly that voters prove they're residents of their voting district(s). Our county does a good job with their resident lists and paper voter ID mail-outs. They'll even accept a valid photo driver's license. It's absolutely imperative legitimate voters show one or the other forms of identification to stop rigged and fraudulent votes from cancelling their choice(s).

  2. 44: Thanks for the comment. Preventing voter fraud is important and putting at least some requirement on people is justified. However,you are describing current law. I should have given more detail in the initial post. I don't believe the law in issue ever took effect.
    Here is that detail (pp. 3-4 of opinion.
    "Senate Bill 14, enacted in 2011, is more stringent than existing Texas law. If implemented, SB 14 will require in-person voters to identify themselves at the polls using one of five forms of government-issued photo identification, two state and three federal: (1) a driver’s license or personal ID card issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS); (2) a license to carry a concealed handgun, also issued by DPS; (3) a U.S. military ID card; (4) a U.S. citizenship certificate with photograph; or (5) a U.S. passport. Tex. Elec. Code § 63.0101 (January 1, 2012). Unlike Texas’s current code, which allows voters to present either photographic or non-photographic ID, SB 14 requires every form of acceptable ID to include a photograph of the voter. Also unlike the current code, SB 14 prohibits the use of IDs that have expired more “than 60 days before the date of presentation” at the polls. Id. Finally, SB 14 will prohibit voters from identifying themselves using only the pictureless “voter registration certificate” issued by a county registrar.
    Prospective voters lacking one of the forms of photo ID listed in SB 14 will be able to obtain a photographic “election identification certificate” (EIC) for use at the polls. A pocket-sized card “similar in form to . . . a driver’s license,” Tex. Transp. Code § 521A.001(e), an EIC, like a driver’s license, will be distributed through the DPS, and prospective voters will have to visit a DPS office to get one.
    Although SB 14 prohibits DPS from “collect[ing] a fee for an [EIC],” id. § 521A.001(b), EICs will not be costless. Not only will prospective voters have to expend time and resources traveling to a DPS office, but once there they will have to verify their identity by providing “satisfactory” documentation to DPS officials. Specifically, prospective voters will need to provide (1) one piece of “primary identification,” (2) two pieces of “secondary identification,” or (3) one piece of “secondary identification” plus two pieces of “supporting identification” in order to receive an EIC. 37 Tex. Admin. Code § 15.182. A “primary” identification is an expired Texas driver’s license or personal identification card that has been expired for at least 60 days but not more than two years. Id. § 15.182(2). A “secondary” identification is one of the following:
    • an original or certified copy of a birth certificate;
    • an original or certified copy of a court order indicating an official change of name and/or gender; or
    • U.S. citizenship or naturalization papers without an identifiable photo.

  3. part II
    Id. § 15.182(3). A wide array of documents qualify as “supporting identification,” including school records, Social Security cards, pilot’s licenses, and out-of-state driver’s licenses. Id. § 15.182(4).
    In sum, SB 14 will require every EIC applicant to present DPS officials with at least one of the following underlying forms of identification:
    • an expired Texas driver’s license or personal ID card;
    • an original or certified copy of a birth certificate;
    • U.S. citizenship or naturalization papers; or
    • a court order indicating a change of name and/or gender.

    Importantly, it costs money to obtain any of these documents. This means that EIC applicants—i.e., would-be voters—who possess none of these underlying forms of identification will have to bear out-of-pocket costs. For Texas-born voters who have changed neither their name nor gender, the cheapest way to obtain the required documentation will be to order a certified copy of their birth certificate from the Texas Bureau of Vital Statistics at a cost of $22. See Advisory Regarding Election Identification Certificates, ECF No. 308, at 2. (A copy of a court order indicating a change of name and/or gender costs $5 for the records search, plus $1 per page for the court order. Actually obtaining a legal change of name and/or gender costs far more—at least $152. See Attorney General’s Response to the State’s Advisory Regarding Election Identification Certificates, ECF No. 330, at 2-3.) More expensive options exist as well, ranging from $30 for an “expedited” birth certificate order all the way up to $354 for a copy of U.S. citizenship or naturalization papers. See, e.g., Advisory Regarding Election Identification Certificates, ECF No. 308, at 2."
    As you can see this is much more complicated, expensive and time consuming than the old law.

    1. Thanks for the clarification. I don't know of any system that's cheat proof. But current state law seems to be working fine. I wonder if there any studies that show if and how big a problem fraudulent elections are. That said, severe penalties should be imposed on anyone for purposeful voter misdeeds.

  4. There are lots of "studies" on the effects of voter ID laws. I know of no comprehensive studies of U.S. voter fraud. Convictions are rare, and are, as with most crimes, a poor indicator of the actual amount of crime occurring. Investigating and prosecuting voter fraud often involves officials with vested interests, one way of the other. I suspect that fraud is highest where there is a political machine and that public officials are often indebted to that machine. Based on 35 years of experience teaching and researching, you will find that topics of interest to the political left are heavily researched and topic the left wants to ignore are generally ignored(e.g. defensive use of firearms). If you come across something, please share.