Citizens barred from the polls: The negative impact of strict photo voter ID in Texas

Issues

In 2011, the Texas legislature enacted Senate Bill 14, the nation’s strictest voter photo ID law that leaves more than half a million eligible voters who do not have the requisite types of ID from fully participating in the democratic process. 

The types of ID required, however, purposefully leave out large swaths of the population.  For instance, a state license to carry a handgun, which may be legally obtained by some non-U.S. citizens, is a permissible form of identification, while a federal or state government ID, nor a student ID, are not permitted. 

The professed aim of the law is to prevent voter fraud, even though evidence of in-person voter fraud is virtually non-existent. In fact, it is more likely for someone to get struck by lightning than for in-person voter fraud to occur. 

Because of SB 14’s requirements, the law disproportionately disenfranchises minority voters, particularly African Americans and Latinos. Here are some of their stories.

Disenfranchised Voter: Anthony Settles 

Due to the state of Texas misplacing his name change certificate, Texas voter Anthony Settles is not able to vote because the state cannot verify his identity. His only recourse is to move to another state or to pay to have his name changed back to his birth name, which he has not used since 1964. In response, Settles says that he feels like he is “living in a country that doesn’t want [him] and that is an awful feeling. It goes beyond a simple 2014 election...it’s a deep-seeded thing. It’s feeling like you’re in a place physically, but they don’t want you to be a part of it.”  

Disenfranchised Voter: Margarito Lara 

Margarito Lara is 80 years old, and like millions of other Americans born in his era, was born at home rather than a hospital and did not receive a birth certificate. For that reason, he can no longer vote under SB 14. Upon the realization that he may never be able to vote again under SB14, Lara said that he “feels sorry that [he] can’t vote [because] it’s very important when you vote.” Sadly, Mr. Lara passed away without being able to vote in person.