Over the weekend we noted a few of the heartbreaking stories about some of the born and raised Texans and 93-year old veterans and others who are now being turned away from the polls, unable to vote for the first time, many of whom have also been unable to obtain a supposedly "free" Election Identification Certificate (EIC) from the state, though not for lack of trying, in most cases.
That's all thanks to the Texas Republicans' new Photo ID restrictions at the polls. Before the new law, the state, since 2003, already required ID for every single voter at the polls without a problem. But they've now changed the law to make it much harder to vote, by requiring a small handful of very specific types of state-issued Photo ID to vote in the Lone Star State. The law will help to suppress the votes of some 600,000 registered voters who disproportionately tend to vote for Democrats, as determined during a year-long trial process finding the law "purposefully discriminatory" and an "unconstitutional poll tax".
Though the U.S. Supreme Court did not disagree with the findings of the U.S. District Court that the law is likely to disenfranchise thousands of perfectly legal voters, they allowed its use this year anyway, because the lower court's findings were determined too close to the start of voting to change the rules. (A reason that that Justices Ginsberg, Sotomayor and Kagan rightly found absurd in their stinging dissent.)
While state-issued Photo ID like hand-gun permits are now allowable for voting, Photo IDs issued by the state university system are not. The voter disenfranchisement resulting from that new law is already becoming clear, even if it's largely lost amongst the "horse race" coverage offered by much of the media...
"They recognize that this an election that impacts them directly - their tuition rates, what jobs they can get after they graduate and if they'll be paid fairly-and they're excited and want to vote," she said. "But the voter suppression has been terrible, a huge problem. A lot don't have IDs, or aren't aware of which IDs they can use, and a lot of people who registered are being told they aren't registered, because [the county] been taking a long time to process them. They may have to vote on provisional ballots. It's very frustrating."
Moreover, the U.S. Supreme Court determined long ago that students may vote in the location where they attend college --- but that is likely to be very difficult for students who have paid to enroll and attend TX schools this year. Ironically, the SCOTUS case, Symm v. United States (1979) affirmed the right of students to vote where they go to school, as determined in United States v. Texas one year earlier.
It only took them about 35 years, but it looks like Texas has finally figured out a way around extending that long-standing right to many of the students attending school there.
Students at UTPA and other schools in the same state-run university system, will not be allowed to use their state-issued Student Photo IDs to vote this year, because all that legal voting probably wouldn't help state Republicans' desperate attempt to hold off the disturbing anti-Republican demographics crush they are now beginning to see clear as day.
Though the state passed its new, much more restrictive Photo ID law in 2011, clearly they haven't bothered to work very hard to let TX students know about the new (unconstitutional) law that is likely to keep many of them from being able to cast a vote at all this year.
Ms. Watson stated that she has observed many other students having trouble voting.
While the round (low-ball) 600,000 number, as determined by the U.S. District Court during the 9-day trial this year, has been used to reference the number of already-register Texas voters who lack the type of ID now needed to vote, approximately twice that many eligible voters (both registered and unregistered) now lack the needed ID. The stories we've heard to date of newly registered student voters who will not be allowed to have their ballots counted would be a part of that larger number.
The Think Progress story quotes Thomas, the student registration worker at UTPA, lamenting that those new voters "may have to vote on provisional ballots. It's very frustrating."
What neither she nor Think Progress explain is that provisional ballots cast by voters in TX who lack the newly-requisite ID will not be counted at all, ever, unless the voter somehow manages to obtain an allowable Photo ID and return to county election headquarters within less than a week after Election Day.
As the state-run VoteTexas.gov website explains, if you read its pages really closely, after casting a provisional ballot for lack of acceptable ID, "The voter will have (six) 6 days to present proper identification to the county voter registrar, or the voter’s ballot will be rejected."
(See Brennan Center's helpful information for student voters in TX here. Info for student voters in all states is here.)
To date, Tea Party Republicans who pretend to give a damn about Constitutional rights haven't said a word about these rights being stolen from legal American voters. In fact, they strongly support taking such rights away from eligible American voters.
UPDATE: Not enraged enough yet? Not convinced yet that the Texas GOP ought be punished for at least a generation for how they are now trashing our democracy and our Constitution? See Zach Roth's MSNBC report tonight on the surge of disenfranchised voters in Texas, thanks to the TX GOP's new voter suppression law.
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)