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We need more mobile ID stations

From the inbox, from the League of Women Voters.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS OF TEXAS CALLS ON SECRETARY OF STATE TO EXPAND AND IMPROVE EFFORTS TO PROVIDE ELECTION IDENTIFICATION CERTIFICATES

AUSTIN, TX – “We are deeply concerned that eligible voters could be disenfranchised this November and we urge the Secretary of State to expand her efforts to provide Election Identification Certificates to voters who need them,” according to Elaine Wiant, President of the League of Women Voters of Texas.”

The League of Women Voters of Texas along with Public Citizen, Mi Familia Vota Education Fund and Texas Freedom Network Education today called on the Secretary of State, Nandita Berry to expand the 2013 efforts to provide EICs to voters who need them.

The League and its partners recommend that the State provide mobile ID stations in each of the major metropolitan areas (Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston, McAllen and San Antonio) for at least seven days, including at least two weekend days, between now and Election Day. Additional locations outside of the major metropolitan areas including rural communities should also be provided to adequately respond to the needs of Texas voters.

In order to make the mobile ID stations accessible to those without the required IDs, we recommend that weekend and non-traditional work hours such as evenings be emphasized in all communities. The groups asked that the dates and locations of the mobile ID stations be set at least 21 days in advance, in order to give individuals sufficient time to obtain the underlying documentation required, such as birth certificates, to obtain EICs.

According to Wiant, “Local leaders are best positioned to identify the communities with the greatest need for this service and the places that community members can most easily access. Therefore, we ask that the Secretary ask local leaders for recommendations for selecting locations for the mobile ID stations.”

The State had previously estimated that a substantial number of registered Texas voters-between 600,000 and 800,000-lack an approved form of photo ID. The data provided to the United States Department of Justice as of September 2011 and January 2012 show that minority communities could be disparately impacted. In addition, a federal court found that “a substantial subgroup of Texas voters, many of whom are African American or Hispanic, lack photo ID” and that the “burdens associated with obtaining ID” will weigh most heavily upon the State’s racial minorities. Young people ages 18 to 24 and the elderly are also believed to be among those who are more likely than the general population to not have an approved form of photo ID.

The November 2014 election is the first major election under the Texas photo ID requirement. To be accepted, the ID must be current or expired no more than 60 days, and be one of the following:
Texas driver’s license, personal ID card, concealed carry license, or election identification certificate, or

  • United States passport, military ID, citizenship or naturalization certificate
  • Photo IDS that cannot be accepted at the polls include out-of-state driver’s licenses, employer IDs, and school IDs.

An exact match between the name on the photo ID and the list of registered voters is not required to be accepted to vote a regular ballot. If names don’t match, additional information will be considered in accepting the voter. Voters without acceptable ID will be able to vote a provisional ballot and provide ID within 6 days of the election.

An Election Identification Certificate can be obtained by voters without one of the other acceptable IDs by providing proof of citizenship and identity at Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) offices.

Battleground Texas, which has joined the call for more mobile ID stations, put out this helpful backgrounder on the issue. That state estimate of 600,000 to 800,000 voters who lack ID is the low end – up to 1.2 million registered voters may lack the accepted forms of ID, and black and Latino voters are far more likely to be in that bucket than white voters. The state of Texas and Greg Abbott in his role as its attorney have claimed repeatedly that there was nothing discriminatory or suppressionist about the voter ID law. Doing their best to ensure that all eligible voters who lack ID can get it would be a step in the direction of backing up those claims.

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7 Comments

  1. Cynical says:

    I question this part of the League’s statement: “An Election Identification Certificate can be obtained by voters without one of the other acceptable IDs by providing proof of citizenship and identity at Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) offices.”

    In fact, obtaining an Election Identification Certificate (EIC) appears to be remarkably confusing and difficult:

    To begin with, you have to show up at a DPS office (been to one of those lately? Models of efficiency and courtesy, I’m sure you ‘ll agree). But let’s assume you do decide to go there, stand in line for hours waiting to be called, and get barked at by a peace officer with a gun on his/her belt. Let’s further assume that you have the freedom from work and childcare duties and the transportation (in short, the upper middle class lifestyle) necessary to do that. What documents would you need to bring with you to get the free EIC that the state offers to provide?

    A quick check of the EIC eligibility requirements on the Texas DPS site reveals something confusing right off the bat: on this page (http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/driverlicense/electionid.htm), it says that if you have a US Passport, you’re not eligible to get an EIC (presumably because the passport itself can be used for voter ID purposes, obviating the need for the EIC). On the next page, though, under the list of documents needed to prove US citizenship (http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/DriverLicense/eicDocReqmnts.htm), the first listed document is….a US Passport. So immediately, the official instructions are self-contradictory.

    Reading further, you find that to get an EIC, you must also establish identity, not just citizenship (because, you know, there’s apparently MASSIVE VOTER FRAUD–which just happens to be completely undocumented–which the Texas Voter ID law was created to fight). However, apparently, a passport which can prove citizenship can’t prove identity. No, to the state of Texas, there are only two forms of primary ID that can do that: a Texas Drivers License or, for non-drivers who want to stand around at the DPS anyway, a State ID…and if a voter has one of those, s/he is not eligible for (and, in order to vote, would have no need of) an EIC, so, um…what was the point again?

    Alternatively, the same DPS web site states that it’s possible to present two of four acceptable documents from the “secondary identification” category to get an EIC, but a quick read of what those are reveals that virtually no one will have three of the four (naturalization papers, a court order for those who have legally changed their name or gender, or a state department document proving citizenship for a US citizen who was born abroad); this leaves only one secondary identification document that most people might be able to obtain–an original or certified copy of their state birth certificate–but then only if they write off weeks in advance to a hospital, a relative, or a state agency to obtain them.

    Since no one who presently lacks a Texas Drivers license or State ID will have an acceptable primary identity document, and at best, after some effort, might be able to get only one of the four acceptable secondary documents, the only option left to them in order to qualify for an EIC would be to provide that birth certificate document plus two additional forms of “supporting identification.” There are 28 acceptable forms of supporting identification, and one is a Texas Voter ID card (which is required to apply for the EIC, unless one makes a voter registration application at the DPS office when applying for the EIC…huh?) so hopefully everyone who applies for an EIC already has a voter registration card and can find at least one other from the 27 remaining options that they can provide.

    So, to qualify for an EIC, there is essentially only one qualifying path open to the vast majority of those who lack a TDL or Texas State ID, and it involves obtaining and presenting three different documents that no person alive typically carries for identification purposes. This would seem to be a very effective way of disenfranchising those who are new to Texas (college students, for example, or others who are too poor, too old or too mobility impaired to have a TDL or state ID).

    Looking at the requirements to obtain a Texas Drivers License or State ID card, there appear to be even greater procedural obstacles (http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/DriverLicense/movingtotexas.htm).

    A passport can still be presented as identification by a registered voter in order to prove identity and enable the registered voter to actually vote, but realistically, a passport is a document available only to people who have the means and mobility to travel to get passport pictures taken and then, for first-time applicants, appear in person to apply, and for whom the associated fees of $135 and up would not be a financial burden. So while TDL and EIC restrictions limit the ability of younger and recently arrived Texans to vote, as well as the poor, the mobility impaired and the elderly, the passport alternative will double down on some of these classes, disproportionately hindering the voting ability of the old, the mobility impaired and the poor.

    A reasonable person might be sorely tempted to conclude that this is a system that was designed by the Republican majority in the Texas Legislature to make it as hard as possible for certain, traditionally more Democratic-leaning, classes of citizens to vote.

    But that would be cynical.

  2. Steven Houston says:

    Cynical, believe it or not, the new DPS super store locations are extremely fast, the clerks helpful, and you can schedule appointments on your phone or computer to expedite things (they even give you an ETA if you want to run errands while waiting). Just going in blindly to get an ID or renew something takes at most a half hour from my experience, the staff staying until everyone has been helped. It is a far cry from the DPS most of us grew up with to be sure. I know that doesn’t solve your problems with the process established by bureaucrats (not party officials) but you aren’t going to spend “hours” there either.

  3. Mainstream says:

    Cynical–my most recent DPS visit in May took under 20 minutes from start to finish. Quit whining and go get your ID.

  4. Greg Wythe says:

    At great risk of getting off-topic, I’m not sure that I’d want to defend the DPS Super Centers as models of efficiency and high-quality customer service. They’re definitely an improvement over the old model. But a lot of that has to do with the design of customer flow than the actual delivery of service. You’re divided into two waiting rooms to avoid seeing a sea of humanity in one big room; you’re given a smaller queue (based on what you’re there to do) on the display screens, even though you’re really in the same queue as everyone else in the room. I believe DPS may have made exceptions for EICs during the last election, however.

    I’ve tested the display that shows how long your wait is against an actual watch and found the display to be unrealistically optimistic. That said, I’ve had visits that were in the ~15 minute wait time and I’ve had visits that lasted around an hour. In both cases, you at least leave feeling better because the UI of the space eliminates the dread and uncertainty of the old buildings. From my own experience, the quality of customer service still varies, though.

    In terms of what it means for those who need an EIC, I think the bigger issue is that the target audience for that document is very, very limited. But the people who need it really, really need it. That’s a tough niche to fill for any delivery mechanism. It definitely didn’t seem as if DPS was up to the task last year since they ended up “up-selling” a lot of people to getting a State ID – in fairness, many of the people going for EICs did have docs that qualified them for the ID. I think it would be a better idea to provide a free one-year ID for people in that situation so that there isn’t an “effective poll tax.” People can decide if they want to shell out the twenty-something bucks for a full ID a year later or continue reliving the DMV experience for free each year.

    I’m skeptical that the audience gets met very well by mobile units. But it’s still a good idea to try out more ideas in the early phase of implementation so that you can do more of what works well later on. Better question might be to ask why we need separate databases for voter registration and another for state-issued ID/DL.

  5. Steven Houston says:

    Greg, I’ve used the super centers several times for myself or for friends (such as getting a friend’s daughter her license). In one case, the kid forgot some of her paperwork but was allowed to go home and get it, come back, and move to the head of the line rather than start all over again. The division of labor allows some of the clerks to specialize and they seem to be much better at their given tasks than the older system though I suppose it may well vary from center to center. It could be that the old system was just so bad that any improvements seem like miracles now but having gone to private sector businesses to get something taken care of (like a phone company, Comcast, or insurance company to pick three), DPS was far better at handling matters in a timely basis than any of the others.

  6. Joe says:

    For the folks touting the speediness of the supercenters, I’d advise you to click the link to the BGTX document in the post and look at the map on page 2. That big swath of dark pink representing voters without IDs is not very close to Spring, Rosenberg or Gessner/Beltway. Their lives are also likely a little more different than yours – they have less reliable access to transportation out that way and more limited schedules for making that trek. Just a little perspective.

  7. Bill says:

    Presumably all these newly disenfranchised voters were former voters who are now being turned away for lack of a Texas ID card, DL, or the new election ID certificate. That tells me, that yes, they do already have a voter registration card. Now, my question is, how are these folks currently supporting themselves?

    If they have a job, then they had a Texas ID or DL when they got hired, along with a Social Security card. They would have been asked to present those documents when they were hired. Should I understand that those folks ALL lost their Texas ID or DL? If so, then how are they cashing their paychecks? A bank or check casher isn’t going to cash a payroll check without proper ID.

    Oh, wait, you say…..these poor folks don’t have jobs. OK, then, how are they living? Eating? A quick visit to the SNAP (food stamp) website shows that, in lieu of a DL, a birth certificate is required to receive food stamps. That tells me that all these disenfranchised folks DO already have a birth certificate. Combine this with the voter registration cards that these active citizen voters already possess, They have the documents they need to vote, and collect welfare.

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