Court-ordered voter options announced

Court-ordered voter options announced

By Glynis Crawford Smith

Highland Lakes Newspapers

 

 

Burnet County Elections Administrator Doug Ferguson has issued a statement dated today, Aug. 31, outlining court ordered changes in voter identification rules for Texas voters in the Nov. 8 election.

“My office is working to make sure all the voters in Burnet County are ready to cast a ballot,” said Ferguson in preface. “These new options for voters who cannot obtain a photo ID are currently in place and will be used in the November Election.”

Texas voter identification law is not a new debate and new changes have had a long road coming.

The law that had taken effect in 2011 was struck down in court and placed on hold in October 2014.

Last summer, a panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit agreed unanimously that the law was not the equivalent of a “poll tax” but had a discriminatory effect on minority voters. That led to full court review. The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately gave the 5th Circuit until July 20 to rule.

The 5th Circuit complied and called for a lower court to change the law in a way that "disrupts voter identification rules for the 2016 election season as little as possible." Federal district court handed down an order to take immediate effect on Aug. 10.

On Aug. 19, Texas Secretary of State (SOS) Carlos H. Cascos issued a press release styled as a “reminder” to Texans that voters who cannot obtain a form of approved photo ID now have additional options when voting in person.

Burnet County Elections Administrator Doug Ferguson has followed with his own announcement dated today, Aug. 31, that follows the SOS language to the letter regarding new options.

“It is a very rare thing that a voter in Burnet County falls into the category of being unable to show the proper identification,” said Ferguson. “Back in the day you could just show up with your certificate, an old voter certificate or something like a utility bill and this (new court ordered rule) is a combination of the last two requirements by law.”

A voter without the previous prescribed photo ID can now sign a form known as a “Reasonable Impediment Declaration” that is submitted with whatever identification is provided. The vote that previously would have been a “provisional vote” now is cast without contest.

“A voter can still cast a provisional ballot and bring in identification later,” said Ferguson. “Either way there will be some paperwork, but this new way is probably a little easier.

“Much like before the rule you can bring almost any kind of identification—even a drivers license expired for four years, instead of 60 days; even an out-of-state drivers license; a utility bill; a paycheck or government document with your name and address.

In the formal press release from Ferguson, as in the one from Cascos, the statement of options reads:

As provided by a court order, if a voter has a reasonable impediment to obtaining one of the seven forms of approved photo ID, the voter may vote by (1) signing a declaration at the polls explaining why the voter is unable to obtain one of the seven forms of approved photo ID, and (2) providing one of various forms of supporting documentation.

Supporting documentation can be a certified birth certificate (must be an original), a valid voter registration certificate, a copy or original of one of the following: current utility bill, bank statement, government check, or paycheck, or other government document that shows the voter’s name and an address, although government documents which include a photo must be original and cannot be copies.  If a voter meets these requirements and is otherwise eligible to vote, the voter will be able to cast a regular ballot in the election.

 

The seven forms of approved photo ID are:

•           Texas driver license issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS)

•           Texas Election Identification Certificate issued by DPS

•           Texas personal identification card issued by DPS

•           Texas license to carry a handgun issued by DPS

•           U.S. military identification card containing the person’s photograph

•           U.S. citizenship certificate containing the person’s photograph

•           U.S. passport

 

With the exception of the U.S. citizenship certificate, the approved photo ID must be current or have expired no more than four years before being presented for voter qualification at the polling place.

 

Voters with a disability may continue to apply with the county registrar for a permanent exemption to showing approved photo ID (which now may be expired no more than four years) at the polls.  Also, voters who (1) have a consistent religious objection to being photographed or (2) do not present one of the seven forms of approved photo ID because of certain natural disasters as declared by the President of the United States or the Texas Governor, may continue to apply for a temporary exemption to showing approved photo ID at the polls.  

 

Voters can learn more by visiting VoteTexas.gov or calling 1-800-252-VOTE.  Voters can also call the Burnet County Elections office at 512-715-5288 or find information about this and current or past elections by going to http://www.burnetcountytexas.org/default.aspx?name=elect.home

 

Early voting for the Nov. 8 Election begins Oct. 24 and ends Nov. 4.

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