Texas’s modified voter ID bill — including a controversial provision threatening some voters with prison time — has crossed another hurdle.
The state Senate voted to move the GOP-backed bill to a final vote, expected later this week. The measure is a response to a court ruling last year that found the bill discriminated against racial minorities and needed to be changed.
The revamped bill would allow voters who don’t have a government-issued photo ID to instead show a non-photo ID like a utility bill or bank statement, as long as they also signed an affidavit swearing that they couldn’t get photo ID.
But a controversial provision would make it a third degree felony for a voter to sign the affidavit if he in fact did have photo ID.
State Sen. Jose Rodriguez, a Democrat, said the penalty “has the effect of scaring people, intimidating people,” adding: “We should not be putting people in jail for up to ten years for a lie that is frankly of no consequence.”
Indeed, as we wrote recently, it’s hard to see how falsely claiming not to have legitimate ID would help someone vote fraudulently, even if fraudulent voting were a serious problem, which it isn’t.
Rodriguez proposed an amendment to soften the penalty, the Texas Tribune reported, but State Sen. Joan Huffman, the Republican who introduced the measure, shot it down.
Huffman called the punishment “very fair and down to earth,” saying a harsh penalty was needed to deter “abuse” of the system.
Rodriguez’s concern about the potential for intimidation is grounded in experience. Last July, a federal appeals court ruled that Texas’s ID law, passed in 2011, discriminated against blacks and Hispanics. As a result, a judge allowed voters in last fall’s election who lacked ID to use the affidavit option. But that led the top election official in Texas’s largest county to warn he’d be checking every affidavit and submitting anything suspicious to prosecutors. Attorney General Ken Paxton also said that people who lied on the affidavit “can be prosecuted for perjury.”