New voter identification laws in Texas—passed by the state legislature in 2011—will be enforced in the November 2013 election. The laws are being enforced by Attorney General Greg Abbott on the heels of a June 25 Supreme Court decision striking down a key part of the Voting Rights Act.
Voters must present one of the following forms of ID in order to vote:
- Texas driver's 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 cardholder's photograph
- United States citizenship certificate containing the cardholder's photograph
- United States passport
The following forms of ID will not be accepted:
- Student ID
- Utility bills
- Identity cards issued by employers
- Driver's license more than 60 days expired
Voters who do not have a valid form of ID can apply for an election identification certificate for no cost at any driver's license office, said Hector De Leon, director of communications with the Harris County Clerk's office. The EIC is valid for six years, but any EIC issued to a voter older than 70 has no expiration date.
"There is no need to apply for the EIC if you already have one of the other six acceptable forms of ID," De Leon said.
The name on a voter's identification must match the name on the county's official list of registered voters, De Leon said. He encourages voters to check how their name appears on the voter registration certificate by going online to the tax-assessor collector's website. Voters who are casting their ballot by mail do not need photo identification.
De Leon said it is difficult to gauge how many voters in Harris County will be affected by the law because they do not have the required identification.
"We're trying to educate people so they know they need to have one of the approved photo IDs," he said. "Voters make voting easier for themselves if they are prepared."
The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Texas' voter identification laws, but the laws are still likely to be enforced this November. Whether they will be in effect for future elections remains to be seen.
Representatives in the Houston area—including U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and state representatives Jessica Farrer, Rodney Ellis and Garnet Coleman—have all spoken out against the laws, claiming they disenfranchise minority, elderly and economically disadvantaged voters.
"According to the DOJ's own analysis, Latinos in Texas are up to 120 percent more likely to not have the required identification, and are nearly twice as likely to not have the available transportation to get a photo ID card," Farrer said in a statement. "Furthermore, one-third of Texas counties do not even have an operational driver's license office. Those facts cannot be disputed. And they are reason enough to not preclear this measure."
U.S Rep. Marc Veasey, D–Fort Worth, has filed a separate lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the laws, and Austin City Council passed a resolution Aug. 29 to look into participating in the lawsuits as well.
De Leon said Harris County is complying with state law.
"As election administrators, we have to abide by and implement the law, and voters will have to abide by the laws as well," he said. "We expect a smooth election like always."
For more information on how to apply for an election identification certificate, visit the Texas Department of Public Safety's website.