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Texas’ Voter ID Law: A Hurdle to Keep the Poor from Voting

I quit driving a couple of years ago for health reasons; my driving was so bad that the health of others was in jeopardy. Just kidding (somewhat).
Why I quit doesn’t matter. But I still had a valid driver’s license to take care of any identification needs that might arise.

Even after the license expired it was still accepted, until one day it wasn’t. Apparently, two years after the expiration date is considered too long.

I was confronted at my bank with the need to have a valid, unexpired ID. So I went online to learn about the process and how it is done.

That resulted in a trip to the driver’s license office, something I always dread having to do. However, my county has a new building, and they have created a process that works.

With my expired driver’s license in hand, along with my Social Security card, which I have had since 1967 when I got my first job, it looked like a very simple task. Not quite.

The website explained that I needed two forms of identification, which I had.

However, the woman with the Department of Public Safety said the expired license did not count, and since I did not have photo identification I would actually need three identifiers. Who has that?

The things she suggested would require a trip back home, which was a 25-mile trip for me.

Some of the documents she suggested I could access via my computer, which was at home, of course.

The clerk actually allowed me to use her computer, which only solved half the problem. Now I had to remember my login password to several sites.

Since there was no way that was going to happen, I requested new passwords be emailed to me so I could reset them.

Finally, I had the needed documents. I left with a temporary ID and instructions that the official one would arrive in the mail in a few weeks, which it did. Everyone is happy, and my new ID card works just fine.

But this is not really about my experience getting a state approved ID card. It is about requiring folks to get identification before they can vote. In order to vote in Texas, a person must have one of these:

â—     Texas driver license issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS)

â—     Texas Election Identification Certificate issued by DPS

â—     Texas personal identification card issued by DPS

â—     Texas concealed handgun license issued by DPS

â—     United States military identification card containing the person’s photograph

â—     United States citizenship certificate containing the person’s photograph

â—     United States passport

As I already indicated, I don’t have the first one. The second item has the same basic requirements as the third, so why bother.

Since I do not own any guns – remember I quit driving so I wouldn’t hurt someone else so how safe would I be with a gun in my hand – item four is off my list. I was never in the military (not drafted because of a medical condition) so item five is not available.

I was born in Texas in 1950 and have only been out of the country a half-dozen times, so why would I need to prove my citizenship. My passport, like my driver’s license, is expired.

I now have the third item on the above so I am good to go. I can vote.

I hear a lot of folks defending the Texas voter ID law on the basis that it is simple to get a valid ID so it really does not keep anyone from voting. From my experience, I can attest it is not that simple.

Take my mother, for example. She is about to turn 89 years old. She hasn’t driven for several years so I suspect her license is about as expired as mine.

I can’t think of anything else on the list of requirements that she possesses. I was able to bail myself out of a bind by accessing utility bills with my name and address, but she doesn’t have any of that.

Like many, I am confident the law discriminates against the poor. I’m thinking of those who can’t make the 25-mile trip to the DPS office or don’t have a home with utility bills in their name.

Perhaps we should be a little more hesitant when accusing people of being lazy and undeserving when they complain about the voter ID laws.

The right to vote has been fought for since the inception of America (remember “no taxation without representation”).

That battle has a rich history including the women’s suffrage movement and the civil rights movement. It is disheartening that we have to do this once again.

Terry Austin is one of the pastors at Bread Fellowship Church in Fort Worth, Texas. He is also the principal partner of Austin Brothers Publishing. A longer version of this article first appeared on his blog, Intermission, and is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @wterrya.