Senate Passes Voter ID
Bill requiring photo ID now goes to House
By Lee Nichols, 8:39PM, Wed. Jan. 26, 2011
The Senate tonight passed one of the most – possibly the most – stringent voter ID bills in the nation. Unlike the bill proposed two years ago, Senate Bill 14 allows almost no alternatives to presenting a photo ID before being allowed to vote. The bill passed 19-11 along party lines (Carlos Uresti absent), and now goes to the House.
Republicans insisted a voter ID law is needed to prevent election fraud. Democrats replied that the issue is really an attempt to suppress voting among minorities, women, the elderly, and the poor – demographics more likely to vote Democratic and less likely to have photo ID – as well as the disabled.
Dems also said voter fraud is rare, and not worth possibly blocking thousands of legitimate voters from easy access to the ballot box.
“I am so sad because in my heart feel done a disservice to those not as blessed as you and I,” said Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio.“ I will vote no because we can do a lot better.”
“We decided to put voter ID at the top of our agenda once again,” said Dallas Dem Royce West, ridiculing Gov. Rick Perry for declaring voter ID “emergency legislation.” “We came into this session with schools in financial trouble. Our cities and counties are in financial crisis, but we put voter ID first. The majority decided to do that."
West noted that many experts agree the greatest potential fraud is in absentee ballots, not in-person voter impersonation. “We’ve done nothing on that,” West said. “I hope we’ll take off our blue and red jerseys after tonight and take care of the business of Texas.”
Other Democrats attacked the fiscal feasibility of the proposed voter ID program, which would have the Department of Public Safety provide free IDs to any citizen needing one to vote. A DPS witness testified Tuesday night that her agency has closed down offices in dozens of counties around the state because it can’t afford to replace ID-making equipment. Austin Sen. Kirk Watson managed to get an amendment passed that will prevent implementation of the program if the Legislature fails to appropriate sufficient funds for it.
Another amendment would allow a state concealed-carry handgun permit to serve as a legitimate voter ID. Only in Texas, folks. Well, at least no election clerk will get her head blown off for rejecting a voter.
The bill “is not as bad as what the opponents claim,” said Houston Democrat John Whitmire said. “It’s worse.”