Editorial: A test of the new voter ID rules in Texas

DallasNews, Editorial

Today begins two weeks of early voting for state constitutional amendments. It’s also the first statewide test for a landmark change in Texas election law — the requirement to show a government-issued photo ID at the polls.

From early on, this newspaper opposed the requirement as a politically motivated, unneeded restriction imposed by the 2011 Legislature. Majority Republicans distorted the incidence of voter impersonation at the polls — which is nearly nonexistent — in ramming through the change.

But it’s time to set that aside and focus on the new reality, in hopes of keeping things as clear and simple as possible for people who want to do their civic duty. Here’s the lowdown:

The photo ID law will not rock the world of most voters, those who carry a driver’s license in their wallets. That’s all they will need to get a ballot. Or they could present one of five other familiar forms of photo ID, like a passport.

There’s one other option and a new addition to the election glossary — the Election Identification Certificate. Be clear on one thing: The wallet-size EIC card is not necessary to vote for people who already have another form of photo ID. In fact, the EIC will not be issued to licensed drivers and those with another approved government-issued photo ID.

The Department of Public Safety issues the free Election Identification Certificate at driver’s license offices to Texas residents who are eligible to vote and can prove identity and citizenship. The DPS is maintaining special Saturday hours to issue the new election ID card at select license offices before Election Day, Nov. 5.

Perhaps an indication of low interest in the constitutional election, only 41 of the new cards were issued by DPS as of last week — statewide. That’s in contrast to estimates that as many as 1.4 million eligible voters in Texas don’t have a photo ID.

The DPS statistics also indicate some uncertainty over the new ID requirement. In issuing the 41 new ID cards, the agency also handled 930 inquiries about them. Many of the inquiries were from people who already had an approved photo ID for voting purposes but thought they might need more.

Other questions are certain to arise while breaking in the new system, and it’s fortunate that the shakeout comes during a constitutional election where turnout will not climb out of the single digits. Any confusion ought to be manageable.

There already have been scattered local elections around Texas this summer in which the new photo ID provisions were enforced, and election officials reported no serious problems.

We trust the same will be the case through early voting and on Election Day. It helps if everyone knows the rules and heads to the polls prepared.

Know the new voting rules

A voter must present one of these forms of photo ID to cast a ballot:

• Texas driver’s license issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS)

• Texas Election Identification Certificate (new) issued by DPS

• Texas personal identification card issued by DPS

• Texas concealed handgun license issued by DPS

• U.S. military ID card containing the person’s photo

• U.S. citizenship certificate containing the person’s photo

• U.S. passport


DPS issues the new EIC card at driver’s license offices. Special Saturday hours are being held at select locations before Election Day, Nov. 5. For details see votetexas.gov.

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