Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Photo IDs for Voters to Be Debated in Austin This Week

Residents of Austin can expect some serious fireworks in their city this week. There is no need to check your calendar ... it's not the Fourth of July yet. Instead, the State Senate is holding a hearing today concerning whether or not Texas should join the seven other states that require voters to present a photo ID in order to vote. The Texas House approved such a measure both in 2005 and 2007, but the bill died in the Senate because it did not have the support of two-thirds of the members that was required to bring the bill to the floor. With a recent change in the body's rules now mandating only a simple majority vote to consider the bill, the fight for photo IDs has been given new life.

Lawmakers who support the need for a photo ID at polling locations argue that the integrity of each ballot cast must be ensured. They point to the fact that photo IDs or an alternative such as a birth certificate are already required to complete the initial voter registration. Also, voters who are not able to produce a photo ID will still be allowed to cast a provisional ballot that will be counted once identity is verified.

Those who are arguing against the measure believe that it is reminiscent of previous poll taxes and literacy tests, as the law would disproportionately affect members of minority groups and the elderly. These individuals are more likely to be without photo IDs. They also point to the fact that no overwhelming problem with voter fraud has been proven, with only twenty-two alleged cases occurring between August 2002 and January 2008.

With this issue splitting the two parties almost to a person and heated opinions on both sides, there are bound to be some strong arguments coming from the chambers of the Capitol this week. The outcome of the proposed legislation, particularly in the House, is still very much in question.

At Bertolino LLP, we have attorneys who practice in the area of election law. If you believe your voting rights have been diminished in any way, the members of our law firm can help. And, we certainly will be following the progress of the voter photo ID bill so that we are prepared to assist you with any legal questions that arise. Please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today and let us know if you have experienced any problems at your voting location.

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