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The first bill of the 82nd Legislative Session has made its way out of the Texas Senate. On January 25, 2011 Senate Bill (SB) 14 of the 82nd session (otherwise known as the “Voter Identification Bill”) was heard by a Senate Committee of the Whole. Rather than sending SB 14 to one of the Senate’s eighteen standing committees, the Texas Senate instead chose to meet in a Committee of the Whole, with all thirty one Senators. This allowed the Senate to hear public testimony before it would go to the Senate floor. SB 14 received a favorable vote of 19 yeas and 11 nays in the Committee of the Whole. The Senate then following established Senate rules read and discussed SB 14 on its second and third reading before the entire Senate. The final vote was then taken on January 26th. With 20 yeas and 12 nays, SB 14 passed out of the Senate and has now been sent to the Texas House of Representatives. Below you will find some back ground information as well as an outline of SB 14 as it passed out of the Senate.
Under Texas law, to vote a regular ballot, sometimes voters are allowed to present a voter registration card to an individual working at the polling location. The poll worker then matches the name on the registration card with the list of registered voters in that precinct. There is no statutory standard in place to verify the identity of the individual wishing to vote. This issue has caused many to question rather or not voter fraud is occurring.
SB 14 seeks to require that an individual present a form of photo identification before that individual would be allowed to vote. SB 14 would allow for six forms of photo identification which are a: Texas Driver’s License, Department of Public Safety ID card, military ID, passport, citizenship certificate, or a Concealed Handgun License. The bill would also establish an exemption for those individuals who are over the age of seventy on January 1, 2012 or for those individuals who are disabled and have established their disability status with the voter registrar. In the bill, there is also a provision allowing for individuals who have a religious objection to being photographed or for those individuals who are indigent and unable to afford proof of identification to cast a vote upon providing a signature affirming their status.
If an individual does not have an acceptable proof of identification on Election Day, SB 14 provides them with the ability to cast a provisional ballot. A provisional ballot is a temporary vote that will be used once an individual’s identity has been verified. After casting a provisional ballot, the individual must appear at the office of the voter registrar with acceptable proof of identification within six days in order for their vote to be counted. In addition to the provisions seeking to ensure that all legal voters are able to vote on Election Day, SB 14 also increases the criminal penalties for those individuals who attempt to commit voter fraud. The penalties are now increased from a Class A misdemeanor to a state jail felony.
If you would like to follow SB 14 or any of the other bills that have been filed and working their way through the process, these websites are a great resource:
• The Texas Legislature
• The Texas House of Representatives
• The Texas Senate
If you have questions or comments regarding SB 14 which was mentioned in this article or any bills which have been filed, please do not hesitate to call my Capitol or District Office. As always, my offices are available at any time to assist with questions, concerns or comments (Capitol Office, 512-463-0672; District Office, 361-949-4603).