Houstonians Without Voter ID Are Mostly Black and Poor

Dept. of Justice
Texas Voter ID Report

Texas' Voter ID law -- which requires that voters show election officials an approved and up-to-date photo ID in order to cast a ballot -- has long been a point of contention. Since the Lege passed a voter ID requirement in 2011, many of its opponents have questioned whether the law unfairly singles out minorities.

While a legal challenge kept Texas' law from taking effect in time for the 2012 election, the landmark US Supreme Court decision in Shelby v. Holder last year invalidated a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, paving the way for Texas to implement its brand new(ish) voter ID law in time for the November 2014 general election. Another lawsuit filed last year in federal court that challenges the law is set to go to trial in Corpus Christi next week. If the state prevails, November 2014 could be Texas' first high-turnout election with a voter ID requirement.

According to VoteTexas.gov, Voter ID is pretty much the law of the land for now, even if the courts have yet to settle the issue:

In 2011, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 14 (SB 14) creating a new requirement for voters to show photo identification when voting in person. While pending review within the judicial system, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion in Shelby County v. Holder, which effectively ended all pending litigation. As a result, voters are now required to present an approved form of photo identification in order to vote in all Texas Elections.

The problem with this equation? Well, opponents of the law say that if you're a poor minority, chances are you're less likely to have an acceptable photo ID, which means you're less likely to vote.

Don't believe us? Check out these handy maps assembled by Dr. Gerald Webster, a geography professor who filed the maps in court this summer.

The maps that Dr. Webster compiled are broken down by demographics in Houston (and in every other Texas metro area), from minority neighborhoods to areas with little access to transportation. If you compare those maps to the one showing where residents are less likely to have photo ID, the pattern is pretty astounding.

Dept. of Justice
Map showing the areas in Houston that are predominantly black

The above map shows the areas of Houston that are predominantly black.

Dept. of Justice
Map of areas with high poverty rates in Houston

This map shows poverty in Houston.

Dept. of Justice
Map of Houston areas without Voter IDs

And the above map here shows the areas of Houston with the highest percentage of people without an acceptable voter ID. Looks familiar, no?

Map of the areas in Houston without access to a vehicle
Dept. of Justice

Finally, here's map of the areas of Houston showing access to a vehicle. Starting to see a trend?

What we see here is the higher cost to participate in the voting process for people already living in poorer parts of town. If you want to vote, you must take time away from work to travel to a DPS office within the city in order to obtain a photo ID.

That gets even harder when there's no access to personal transportation, which obviously puts low-income residents at a disadvantage. And in Houston, that disadvantage is pretty significant. The average travel time to a DPS office for a person with a vehicle, one-way, is about 10.5 minutes. Not too bad for a city as spread out as Houston. But if you're taking a bus to a DPS office to get that photo ID, you're looking at about 66.7 minutes worth of travel time -- in one direction. Oh, and that's not factoring in the distance from one's home to the bus station, and from the bus station to the DPS office -- which can add even more travel time.

So, it basically takes Houston's bus-riders -- i.e. folks in areas where they can't afford a car -- about 6.3 times longer to get approved ID so that they can vote. That might be a slight hindrance, no?

If you're already poor and you can't access your local DPS office in a feasible, cost-effective way, chances are you'll be less likely to get an approved ID than those living in richer neighborhoods who have cars. Which means you'll be less likely to vote.

That's cause and effect.

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My Voice Nation Help

Poll tax, good character test, literacy tests, grandfather clause, and voter caging have all been used in the past to suppress the vote. They are part of U.S. history.

Changing people's attitude is difficult because many people reflexively react against any sort of change, whether it is allowing people to vote or considering them human beings. Unless the past has no bearing on the present, or all these issues have been completely solved, then they still have an effect today.


From, the SNAP (Food Stamp) Website:

SNAP applications are available at any Social Security office. If you and everyone in your household are applying for or already getting SSI payments, any Social Security office will help you fill out the SNAP application and send it to the local SNAP office for you.

All others, including those applying for or getting only Social Security, must take or send their SNAP applications to the local SNAP office or to any Social Security office where a SNAP representative works.

When you are interviewed, you also should have:

  1. Identification such as a driver’s license, state ID, birth certificate or alien card;
  2. Proof of income for each member of your household, such as pay stubs or records that show if Social Security, SSI or a pension for each member of your household is received;
  3. Proof of how much you spend for child care;
  4. Rent receipts or proof of your mortgage payments;
  5. Records of your utility costs; and
  6. Medical bills for those members of your household age 60 or older, and for those who receive government payments such as Social Security or SSI because they are disabled.

OK, so how many of these disenfranchised poor folks are currently collecting food stamps?  My guess is many, considering 47 million Americans are getting it.  What identification did these folks provide to the food stamp office?  Every one of them provided ONLY a birth certificate?  Really?  And even if they did, then they already have one of the requisite documents to get a state ID card.


" If you want to vote, you must take time away from work to travel to a DPS office within the city in order to obtain a photo ID."

If you are working, that means you have presented your employer with a state ID card (most probably a driver's license) and a Social Security card, at the time that you were hired.  So what happened?  Did all these working folks without ID lose those identity documents?  Really?  Hundreds of thousands of working folks who ALL lost their DL/state ID and their SS card? 

How is it those same working people get their paychecks cashed?  Any bank or check casher is going to require some photo ID in order to cash a check.  You'd  think those folks who lost their ID cards would have taken the time to get a replacement immediately, so they could cash their paychecks, ESPECIALLY if they are low income folks. 


Just put the voting polls at the DPS offices. Since these people w/o ID have no problem with Transportation to the Polls...problem solved.


I believe the major portion of these folks are undocumented aliens who are registered to vote without being able to do so legally. What these maps show is the high number of people who have been voting illegally. Poor citizens get governmental assistance, and need governmental ID to obtain it.


No surprise here, all part of the disenfranchisement strategy.

gossamersixteen topcommenter

Gee thanks Republicans apparently you don't want those folks voting for your competition.. You know the ones who actually have a conscience, those pesky Democrats who aren't the corporate whores you are.


I come from a third world country, and even there you are required to show a valid ID, so do not come with this sad excuses this victimhood mentality is what keep blacks where they are.


The map shows that there are regions of Houston where 40-60% of the population are barred from voting by the ID requirement, and that fact alone should make the restriction unconstitutional.



The clear solution to your issue is for Texas to issue Texas ID cards at no charge.  Currently, the charge is $ 16 for a Texas ID if you are under 60 and $ 6 if you are over 60.  I doubt this would break the state to wave these fees.  While I can't see that a lack of $ 16 is really keeping a person who wants to vote from voting, I do see your point.  It is a defacto poll tax, even though most everyone that wants one already has a DL or state ID.


@popatop What again about voting illegally? Is there any official report that has made that claim, because the last report that came out came to the opposite conclusion. 


@Bill @h_e_x An ID for everyone would be a good move. I remember that talks about a national ID got shot down some years ago because people were afraid of the government or some other nonsense (they'll take the SS cad, but an ID is a bridge too far).

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