Ellis: I have the votes to kill Voter I.D. Bill
Senator, advocates urge Texas to drop dangerous, divisive election plan
(AUSTIN) -- At a press conference today, Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) announced that he has 11 signatures to block Senate debate of the so-called "Voter I.D." legislation under consideration by the Texas House. Senator Ellis was joined by representatives of Common Cause, The People for the American Way, Advocacy Incorporated, the League of Women's Voters and the American Civil Liberties Union in calling for defeat of this divisive measure.
"Like last session, I have the votes to defeat plans to enact voter intimidation laws," said Senator Ellis. "We've seen this movie before, and we know how it ends. It's time to drop this dangerous and divisive plan and concentrate on reforms that will actually improve our electoral system."
During the 79th Legislative Session, Senator Ellis and Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) led efforts to defeat the voter intimidation bill, which would have made it more difficult for elderly, low-income and minority Texans from voting. Last session, SB 89 would have established some of the most restrictive voting laws in the nation. The legislation, opposed by groups ranging from AARP to MALDEF to the NAACP and LULAC, would have required that a voter show a voter registration card and picture identification or two forms on non-picture identification in order to vote. If a voter could not meet these requirements, the voter would be allowed to vote provisionally or the voter would have to go home to retrieve the necessary ID and come back to cast a regular ballot. Voters who didn't have the required ID with them and cast provisional ballots would have to go the courthouse to show photo ID within 5 days after the election, or their vote would not count.
The attempt to weaken voting rights is now a national movement. Twenty five states have either enacted or attempted to pass legislation that would require photo ID to be eligible to vote despite no documented evidence that a voter has voted in any state using false identification.
In late 2005, the Washington Post reported that career attorneys in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division recommended that the federal government reject the state of Georgia's plan to require voters to provide photo identification, but were overridden by political appointees within the department. According to the report, career officials found that the Georgia Voter ID plan would weaken African Americans right to vote. Last month, a U.S. District Court judge blocked implementation of the Georgia Voter ID plan, comparing the law to the poll tax.
"There is overwhelming evidence that the voter ID plan is a solution in search of a problem," said Ellis. "Supporters of this effort continue to throw charges, anecdotal evidence and rhetoric around, but cannot point to one single case of voter impersonation. Those of us opposed, however can cite case after case of voter intimidation and suppression. The same concerns we raised here in Texas were echoed by career justice department officials."
Voter I.D. proposals would create tremendous barriers for Texans to vote. Studies have shown as many as 21 million -- 11 percent -- do not have a photo ID. These Americans are predominantly elderly, low-income and/or minority. In Georgia, for instance, 33 percent of seniors over 75 do not have a valid driver's license. In addition, with the passage of the Real ID Act in Congress, it will become more difficult to obtain an official state ID.
In addition, a study of the 2004 presidential election showed that states which passed voter I.D. laws experienced an turnout reduction of 3 percent overall, and a steeper drop among Hispanics and African Americans. According to the study, prepared by scholars at Rutgers and Ohio State Universities for the Federal Election Assistance Commission, African Americans were 5.7 percent less likely to vote and Hispanics were 10 percent less likely to vote in states which passed stringent identification laws.
"We will not allow this blatant voter intimidation plan to become the law in Texas," Ellis said. "We've come too far and fought too hard to go back."
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