New Voter ID, Unavailable in Seventy Counties in State, Opens With Wealth of Issues Remaining
Between Sen. Wendy Davis's filibuster and the Supreme Court's decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, this week has been a strangely successful one for progressives in Texas. However, there was a ruling before either of these realities that girded conservatives and tea partiers in the state. On Tuesday, the SCOTUS ruled in a 5-4 decision that Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act should be excised, and that Congress "may draft another formula based on current conditions." This section, which contained a formula forcing nine states and assorted counties to pre-clear electoral changes with the federal government, was one of the main pillars of the VRA, providing federal oversight to areas that had used traditionally discriminatory practices to prevent minorities from voting.
One of the forms of identification you'll have to use to vote in Texas. Unavailable in 70 counties.
Texas, as you may have heard, was one of the nine states subjected to such federal pre-clearance, most recently with its attempts at voter ID legislation. The new regulations were the greatest accomplishment of the 2011 Legislative Session, but a federal court used the VRA to bar the legislation from implementation. Now, following the SCOTUS's new ruling, Attorney General Greg Abbott says he will be pushing for implementation as soon as possible. "With today's decision, the state's voter ID law will take effect immediately," he said on Tuesday.
Indeed, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety, applications for the new Election Identification Certificates (EIC) were available yesterday, following Abbott's announcement. The EIC is now one of six options of state-approved forms of ID the state will require citizens to present while voting.
And while the process of obtaining an EIC is relatively straightforward -- the application is short, and you are presented with a receipt upon same-day approval that allows you to vote -- the burdens that led the federal court to its earlier decision remain.
"The regulations remained in basically suspended animation," Logan Churchwell, the public relations director with pro-regulation True the Vote, told the Houston Press. "We see this [ruling] as moving forward for our republic, and as a celebrated decision."
As currently structured, citizens will need to present both proof of US citizenship and identification in order to obtain an EIC. While the card itself is free, applicants would need to pay up to $22 for a birth certificate as one of the options for obtaining an EIC.
Churchwell disputed the notion that the cost should preclude anyone from obtaining the identification card.
"It's important not to zero in on the birth certificate aspect, as that's a very narrow interpretation of what you need for ID," Churchwell told the Press. "That's just too narrow of a reality."
However, other issues stand even more starkly. According to Katherine Cesinger, spokeswoman for TxDPS, citizens will need to apply for EICs at a TxDPS drivers license office. There is no option for a mail-in application. You must show up, in person, to obtain an EIC.