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Why no ID?

Grits asks an interesting question.

Why do so many adult Texans lack ID? In part because 2 million drivers have had their drivers licenses revoked because of nonpayment of the Driver Responsibility Surcharge, which readers will recall is a stiff civil penalty tacked on top of any fines, punishments or court costs stemming from certain traffic offenses, including  driving without a license, driving without insurance, “point” accumulation, and DWI. Of those, around 1.2 million have not had their licenses reinstated, which would explain why so many voters may have had a DL number when they registered to vote but don’t now. If 2.4 million Texas voters lack state ID, and all but 800,000 had IDs when they registered, then the Driver Responsibility Surcharge could account for as much as three-quarters (1.2 out of 1.6 million) of those who had ID when they registered to vote but do not today.

I’d love to see the state run another matching program to find out how many voters without a current ID have defaulted on one or more Driver Responsibility Surcharges. This redundant civil penalty has inflicted untold misery on drivers who owe it, and judges blame the surcharge for Texas’ declining DWI conviction rate. Now it appears the surcharge is a major contributor to Texas’ Voter ID law being challenged. Meanwhile the Lege is using most of the “dedicated” funds from the surcharge to balance the budget instead of dispensing it to trauma center hospitals as they promised.

A comparison to other states that don’t have something like the DRS in place would be interesting as well. As I said before, Texas could have very easily headed off this particular objection, by making an acceptable state ID more widely available. But they didn’t, and in fact made it even harder for many people to get ID by cutting the budget for DPS, which led to the closure of many DMV offices. And again, this was entirely in harmony with their intent, which was to throw a bunch of people they didn’t like off the voting rolls, possibly for good. They could have gotten most of what they wanted, but they wanted it all and then some. The scary thing is, they still might get it.

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3 Comments

  1. Meg Blakey says:

    I had no idea about this – the potential for disenfranchisement is shocking. Thanks for keeping us all informed.

  2. Jeremy M says:

    One thing that everyone always forgets to mention is that the Texas Driver Responsibility Program not only affects you while you are in Texas, but it will continue to after you leave the state for good. I paid thousands to that company(which is just a collection agency in Michigan) and they say I missed a payment…years later, I now live in Kentucky and have no plans to ever go back to Texas but cannot get a Kentucky DL until I deal with these crazy people in another state, about a license in Texas. So let me get this straight, a program that was supposed to fund Texas trauma units and make our streets safer, is administered in another state(most likely so you cannot complain in person) so there are no jobs created in Texas, a program that continues to punish citizens after they paid their debts to society through the court system, but is not considered an example of double jeopardy, and now the money is being taken for the state budget. How is this not being considered taxation without representation? Why is this not illegal? And where is the legal recourse to fight this program?

  3. […] here for my thoughts on that Grits post from last year. It’s an interesting hypothesis, but we […]

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