While the fate of the Texas Voter ID Law approved by the legislature in 2011 still appears to be up in the air, Howard County election officials are urging Crossroads voters to stay ahead of the curve and be prepared to show their identification in the upcoming November election.
The law â which was approved by the Texas Legislature last year but failed to garner necessary approval from the U.S. Department of Justice â went before the U.S. Supreme Court in early July, including a week of testimony by attorneys representing the Lone Star State.
Although the Supreme Court has yet to issue a ruling in the matter, Howard County Elections Administrator Saundra Bloom said time restraints leading up to the November presidential election may make it a good idea to secure necessary identification now.
âAccording to the information we've received from the state, if the Supreme Court rules in favor of Texas and the ruling comes down by Sept. 1, there's a very high likelihood it will be in place in time for the November election,â Bloom said. âOf course, no one has any clue what the Supreme Court is going to do with the case, so it's all still very much up in the air.
âI'm not completely sure why the Sept. 1 deadline is necessary. Implementing the law shouldn't be a tough process for us. However, the one problem I can see arising from it has to do with the provision that says the state will provide a photo ID for voting purposes only at no charge. They are rather shorthanded right now, and if the people needing IDs hit them all at once, I can see where it could be a problem getting those issued in time.â
Bloom said the law â if allowed to be enacted by the federal government â will require voters to present a government-issued ID when they go to the polls.
âThere are basically seven types of government-issued IDs that are allowed under the new law,â Bloom said. âA driver's license, a state identification card, passport, concealed weapon license, military ID, citizenship certificates and election identification certificate. Oddly enough, despite being issued by the government, IDs from the VA Medical Center and Big Spring State Hospital are not acceptable.â
Bloom said her office has been in the process of educating voters on the changes the new law could bring about since it was approved last year.
âHonestly, I'm not sure how many voters this will affect in Howard County,â Bloom said. âWe've been talking to them and explaining the law since it was approved in 2011 and the vast majority of voters have a government-issued ID, so this really doesn't affect them. However, for the few out there who could be affected, it's not hard to see how complicated the matter could get and how quickly it could get that way.
âThat's why I've been telling voters if they don't already have the necessary ID, don't wait around to see what the Supreme Court or Department of Justice is going to say about it. Go ahead and get ahead of this thing. A government-issued ID isn't that hard to get, however, it can get rather time-consuming. And, with the November election right around the corner â a presidential election many, many people are going to want to weigh-in on, they could find themselves in a serious time crunch.â
Texas is among eight states to require official photo identification in an effort to stop what officials say is voter fraud. Opponents of the laws say they disenfranchise poor, minority and disabled voters. Opponents have also said it could suppress minority voter turnout by as much as 5 percent at a time when the Hispanic population is growing rapidly.
Nationwide, the NAACP claims 25 percent of African-Americans and 16 percent of Latinos of voting age lack a current government-issued photo ID.
In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed a similar voter ID law in Indiana to stand, saying the stated goal of stopping voter fraud was a legitimate exercise of legislative power.