Texas Loosens Its Voter ID Law

Gov. Greg Abbott signed a new voter ID bill into law Thursday, loosening identification requirements from a 2011 law that a federal judge said was enacted by Republicans to intentionally discriminate against minority voters, who tend to vote for Democrats.

By Chuck Lindell

Gov. Greg Abbott signed a new voter ID bill into law Thursday, loosening identification requirements from a 2011 law that a federal judge said was enacted by Republicans to intentionally discriminate against minority voters, who tend to vote for Democrats.

Senate Bill 5 will allow registered voters who lack a photo ID to cast a ballot after showing documents that list their name and address, including a voter registration certificate, utility bill, bank statement, government check or work paycheck.

Such voters would have to sign a "declaration of reasonable impediment" stating that they could not acquire a photo ID due to a lack of transportation, lack of a birth certificate, work schedule, disability, illness, family responsibility, or lost or stolen ID.

Voters who lie on the declaration could be prosecuted for a state jail felony, with a maximum of two years in jail.

Republicans said having to show identification would protect the integrity of elections. Democrats predicted additional court challenges, arguing that the bill was still intended to suppress the vote, particularly with the threat of jail time.

SB 5 will take effect on Jan. 1.

Also Thursday, Abbott signed into law a bill that will end straight-party voting, requiring every candidate on state ballots to be chosen individually after the law takes effect Sept. 1, 202o.

The delay was intended to give candidates and election officials time to adapt to the change.

Democrats opposed House Bill 25 as well, saying it could discourage voting in a state with an already low voter participation rate. Republicans argued that the change would force candidates to campaign harder and voters to conduct better research before casting ballots.

(c)2017 Austin American-Statesman, Texas

Caroline Cournoyer is GOVERNING's senior web editor.
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