Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Voter I.D. Law in Texas


Another issue that we discussed at the Texas Interfaith Advocacy Conference was the voter I.D. law, which will be a serious impediment to hundreds of voters who do not already have a photo I.D. Because 80 counties in Texas have no Department of Public Safety, where they can get an approved State I.D., people in those counties may have to travel 100 miles and over to a DPS office to get an acceptable I.D. And then the I.D. will be good only for voting; it will not be a valid identification for any other activity.
 Having a voter registration certificate (voter registration card) is better. This card is available through the voter’s county Election Administration office—and every county has such an office.  This voter registration card can be used as identification in any situation—so we need to urge people to register to vote so they will have a widely accepted form of identification.
HOWEVER, as of now the voter must also have photo identification; a voter registration certificate alone is not sufficient. One must have a photo I.D. and the acceptable photo ID’s 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 concealed handgun license issued by DPS
·         United States military identification card containing the person’s photograph
·         United States citizenship certificate containing the person’s photograph
·         United States passport
If a voter has ONE of these photo I.D.’s, no other identification is required; however, four of the acceptable photo I.D.’s are available only through the DPS office—therefore, many, many voters must travel many miles to get acceptable identification. And, with the exception of the U.S. citizenship certificate, the identification must be current or have expired no more than 60 days before being presented for voter qualification at the polling place.
Another issue with identification is that if a voter has the voter registration certificate and so must present also a photo I.D., the names on the two pieces must clearly refer to the same person. So—for example—if one piece has a woman’s first and maiden name and the other has her first and married name without reference to the maiden name, then the judge may refuse to accept the I.D.’s.  The woman could still vote a provisional ballot but not a regular ballot. It will be best if both names are exactly the same.
The legality of this voter I.D. requirement is still in question, but as of now it is law. As social action advocates, we need to be sure all voters know to be prepared when they next go to the polls.



Thursday, September 5, 2013

No Fear: Conference on Election Year Advocacy/Texas Interfaith

On August 18 and 19, I attended the conference led by the Texas Interfaith Center for Public Policy and held at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary: NO FEAR: Election Year Advocacy for Individuals and Communities of Faith. The Center’s first-ever conference on election-year advocacy was designed to help participants frame the connections between faith, politics, and public policy.  Conference speakers were: Peggy Fikac of the San Antonio Express-News and Houston Chronicle; Ben Philpott, KUT News and Texas Tribune; Joshua Houston, Texas Interfaith Center/Texas Impact staff attorney; Carolyn Boyle, chair of Texas Parent PAC; Froswa’ Booker-Drew is with World Vision as Community Youth Development Director for the Southeast region of the U.S.; and Ann Beeson who has been recognized as one of the 50 most influential women lawyers in America by the National Law Journal.

In the Conference, we talked about why Texas has such low civic participation, why that’s a concern for faith communities, and what we can do about it. The political experts offered insights into themes in the 2014 elections that will be of interest to people of faith.
The most startling piece of information I learned is that Texas is #51 in the nation for voter participation! (That includes the District of Columbia.) Since the U.S. has the lowest voter turnout of any democratic nation, that gives us Texans the very dubious honor of being the WORST IN THE WORLD for voter participation! My sisters, that is unacceptable! We simply cannot allow that situation to continue. Regardless of our political-party affiliation, we must encourage everyone to exercise the privilege and obligation to VOTE!
One of the dimensions of voter participation that I had not considered is the significance of relationships. Not only is our relationship with the candidate significant, but relationships with family and community can be very important—because we can encourage those people to vote. Even if we know our party affiliation is different, we can still urge them to vote. Ms.Booker-Drew has found that  isolation is the major source of suffering for people both individually and culturally. Likewise, isolation is the “glue that holds oppression in place.” If we connect with the little corner of the world that we call our home community, we are more nearly able to identify isolation, oppression and marginalization—and confront the situation.
Many political races are won/lost by fewer than 100 votes—sometimes as few as a dozen, in local races. So EVERY VOTE COUNTS! We must combat the lethargy of “My vote won’t matter anyway” by making people aware of this fact.
In another posting, I will discuss other items from the Conference.

 Rose Watson