Tonight the Texas Progressive Alliance conferenced with John Courage and Terri Sperry of True Courage Action Network, Nate Isaacson of PFAW, and other voting rights activists on HB-626, the voter ID bill which would place too onerous a burden on the rights of Texans to cast their ballots.
The bill requires requires voters to provide a certified copy of a passport, birth certificate, or naturalization papers (proving citizenship) at the time of voter registration, and a photo ID at the polling place. Sonia Santana, my friend and the most engaged citizen in the state of Texas on this issue, posted a recent diary detailing the concerns. Vince and Hal posted on the bill's filing in January, and it comes up for a vote this week.
Certified copies -- not the original documents -- are necessary because the copies are retained by the voter registrar, which will no longer be the person you sign up with at the Wal-Mart, or the county fair, or even at the driver's license renewal office. Certified copies aren't inexpensive; costs vary but they're in the range of $20 to $30. That makes this requirement essentially a poll tax, which is precisely what the Republicans sponsoring it want to achieve: suppression of votes by minorities and less-than-wealthy people. But it also will exclude students, seniors, the disabled and many working people by putting too high a price on a person's time and mobility to acquire the proof.
People whose names have changed, through adoption or marriage, will be at an additional disadvantage. People born at home -- a not-so-insignificant number of people in Texas -- don't have a birth certificate, and as such will likewise be inconvenienced at best and disenfranchised at worst.
This is bad legislation with nefarious intent: suppressing the vote under the guise of a concern for a problem which exists only in the imagination of men like Karl Rove.
Contact your state representative and tell them to vote NO. Look up your state rep with this link.
Update (4/17): Paul Burka and I are in complete agreement.