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No ID, No Problem: State of Texas Announces Rules For Voter ID

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Mechanically, voting at Texas polling places this November is going to be the same as it was during the Texas primary on March 1. The easiest way to exercise your right is going to be by bringing one of the seven forms of photo ID — a driver's license, state ID, concealed handgun permit, passport, U.S. citizenship certificate, military ID or special voter ID — that the state considers valid identification for electoral purposes. 

Before the July 5th Circuit slapdown of a Texas' 2011-passed law, only those specific forms of ID would've been accepted. A couple of weeks ago though, the 5th Circuit has ruled against the law. The court declared the provisions of Texas' law made it especially difficult for poor people and minorities to vote and ordered the state to do something to level the playing field.

Quickly too, it said, so that voters will know what's going on.

On Wednesday the state released it's plan to cover those who are unable to come up with one of the required forms of ID. So here are the new rules that govern access to the booth. 

Anyone who shows up at the polls without photo ID will, first, need to have another form of ID. A valid voter registration certificate, a certified birth certificate, a current utility bill, a bank statement, a government check, a paycheck, or any other government document that displays the voter’s name and address, will do. 

Then, voters without ID will be required to sign an affidavit stating that they encountered a "reasonable impediment" when trying to get their hands on a photo ID. Poll workers can't ask questions about what that impediment might have been or challenge the voter in any way, the new regulations say.

Under the law, if you were a student who hadn't changed the address on your ID to match the college town you now lived in, you'd have been stuck filing a provisional ballot before having a six day window to show valid ID to your county voter registrar. But voters can also no longer be forced to vote a provisional ballot under the same circumstances.  

The state will be required to spend $2.5 million promoting the new rules between now and November.

Ken Paxton, the Texas attorney general, said that the regulations effective in November are only temporary and that his office will continue fighting for stringent implementation in the law in the future.

“The U.S. Supreme Court said that voter ID is a legitimate means of preventing voter fraud, and Texans widely support it to defend the integrity of our elections," the statement said. "This case is not over. In light of the Fifth Circuit's recent decision, we are working hard on saving all the important aspects of our voter ID."

U.S. Representative Marc Veasey, who represents a gerrymandered swath of southern Dallas and Tarrant Counties, was the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit. He hopes that the state will drop the issue.

“I’m very excited, I mean this is a win for Texas voters all throughout our state. Fairness and easy access to the ballot box is what we want for our state," Veasey says. "This is a good day for Texas voters."

Texas' voter ID law, as it will be enforced in November, is strong enough to stop any potential in-person voter fraud, Veasey says, but that was never really what voter ID was about.

"The Voting Rights Act mandated that the burden of proof to deny someone the right to vote should be on the state, what Texas did was put the burden back on the voter. "In my opinion, that's like what we saw in Jim Crow," Veasey said.

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