Texas gov signs modified voter ID bill — plus another voting restriction

Governor Greg Abbott signed Texas’s new, modified voter ID bill into law Thursday, after an earlier version was found to discriminate against minorities.

For good measure, Abbott also signed another voting bill that could also hit racial minorities hardest.

The ID bill allows voters who don’t have acceptable photo ID to instead present one of several forms of non-photo ID, like a utility bill or bank statement. They also must sign an affidavit swearing to their identity. Anyone who lies on the affidavit could face a two-year jail term.

“We are very concerned that this law will have the effect of intimidating folks who truly have a reasonable impediment to obtaining a photo ID and ultimately prevent them from casting a vote,” Beth Stevens of the Texas Civil Rights Project said in a statement Friday.

Texas’s first voter ID law was found by U.S. District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos to be deliberately racially discriminatory. Blacks and Latinos lack photo ID at higher rates than whites, and Texas’s efforts to get IDs to those who needed them were found to be lackluster.

As a result of the deliberate racial discrimination finding, Gonzales Ramos has been considering whether to require that Texas be placed once again into the “pre-clearance” system, which would require it to get all election rule changes pre-approved by the federal government. The modified ID law is an effort to avoid that fate.

The same modified approach was essentially in force for last November’s election, via an order from Gonzales Ramos. But a post-election study suggested there were still widespread problems at the polls, in part thanks to confusion about the rules.

Abbott also signed a bill Thursday that will eliminate straight-ticket voting, which allows voters to select a party’s full slate of candidates by pushing one button.

Backers of the bill said the goal was to get voters to engage in down-ballot races. But scrapping straight-ticket voting will add to the time it takes to vote, potentially causing delays at the polls. And there’s some recent evidence that areas of Texas with higher minority populations have higher rates of straight-ticket voting, as well as that the practice is increasingly popular with Hispanics.

One Texas Democratic consultant called the bill “likely an acknowledgment by Republican leaders that straight ticket voting is being used effectively by minority voters.”

 

Photo: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (Creative Commons)

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