Senator Ellis Press Release

For Immediate Release
September 19, 2013
Contact: David Edmonson, 512-463-0113

Ellis Questions DPS Warrant Checks on Texans Applying for Voter ID

(Austin, Texas) — Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) today sent a letter to Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Steve McCraw regarding the agency's implementation of the voter ID law. The letter is attached and can be found below.

The letter questions whether, as recent reports have indicated, DPS will be conducting warrant checks on individuals that visit a DPS driver license office for the purpose of obtaining a free election identification certificate.

"I know that the legislature tasked DPS with a very difficult job," said Ellis. "But Texas has a long and sad history of making it difficult for people to vote, so we've got to be extremely careful with how the voter ID law gets implemented. I can't stomach asking an eligible voter to face the threat of arrest in order exercise their right to cast a ballot."

In 2011, Texas passed voter ID legislation, which requires voters to show photo identification in order to vote. The law explicitly sets out the types of photo identification that are acceptable, including the election identification certificate — a new type of ID that is issued by DPS at no cost to the requestor. Election identification certificates may be obtained from any DPS driver license office.

Unless a court stops the law from being implemented, voter ID will be in effect during this November's elections.

Letter to DPS:

September 19, 2013

Mr. Steve McCraw
Director, Texas Department of Public Safety
P.O. Box 4087
Austin, Texas 78773

Dear Mr. McCraw:

I recently saw a media report regarding the Department of Public Safety's (DPS) implementation of the voter photo identification law. Specifically, my understanding is that when an individual requests an election identification certificate at a DPS driver license office, DPS staff immediately determines whether that individual has any outstanding warrants. If a warrant is located, I am told that information is immediately turned over to the Highway Patrol Division.

I therefore have the following questions:

I understand and respect DPS's role as a law enforcement agency and the difficult duty you have. At the same time, I hope you can appreciate that the threat of possible arrest for merely seeking to exercise one's right to vote will inevitably have a detrimental impact on the number of election identification certificates issued and thus the ability of otherwise eligible voters to have their voice heard via the ballot box.

Given the fact that we are less than two months away from election day and less than a month away from the registration deadline, I ask that you respond in writing as soon as possible.

I look forward to working with you to ensure that all eligible Texas voters are able to comply with the voter ID law.


Rodney Ellis