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Texas House Passes Final Version Of Voter ID Bill

AUSTIN (AP) –  The Texas House passed hotly debated legislation Monday requiring voters to show photo identification before casting ballots, sending to Gov. Rick Perry’s desk a measure he declared an “emergency” item for the legislative session.

The 98-46 vote adhered to party lines, with Republicans largely saying the measure is necessary to prevent voter fraud and Democrats countering that it could make it harder for the state’s poor and minority voters to go to the polls.

Perry’s signature will mark a victory for Republicans on an issue that has split along partisan lines for years. It requires voters to present a valid state or federal photo ID. A driver’s license, personal ID card, military ID, passport or concealed handgun permit would be accepted.

Republicans pushed a voter ID bill through the Senate in 2009, but it stalled in the House in the final weeks of that session. Senate Republicans again got the bill through that chamber back in January.

The Senate and House had already approved similar versions of the bill and spent the last month working out a compromise on minor provisions. The last version approved by the Senate last week and the House on Monday allows the state to issue free IDs to be used specifically for voting if someone does not have another acceptable form of identification.

Those expected to require new IDs are mostly people who have religious objections to having their picture taken or have lost their IDs in a natural disaster. Voters without IDs could cast provisional ballots but would have to show identification within six days to have their votes counted.

The proposal also makes illegal voting a second-degree felony punishable by two to 20 years in prison, and up to $10,000 in fines, rather than the current third-degree felony.

Final approval did not come without more than an hour of discussion on the House floor, with opponents noting that the proposal will cost the state between $1 and $2 for each new ID issued exclusively for voting — but that officials aren’t sure how many Texans will actually require the new cards.

That led to a bit of a role reversal. Democrats argued against the unnecessary spending, with the bill’s conservative supporters maintaining that those getting new IDs will be too few to make a major fiscal difference.

Rep. Patricia Harless, the Houston-area Republican who carried the bill in the House, said those eligible for the new voting IDs fall into “a small universe.”

But Rep. Yvonne Davis, D-Dallas, said: “Just because you don’t know the cost, doesn’t mean there won’t be one.”

Democrats also took issue with the precise language of the final version of the bill, which said provisional votes would be accepted — raising objections about whether that actually meant they would be counted.

“We’d have a difficult time going back and telling people, ‘we passed legislation that doesn’t ensure your vote will be counted,”‘ Davis said.

Harless said that during long hours of previous debate both in the House and the Senate, the belief was that requiring ID would actually increase voter participation among all demographics and income levels. She ducked questions from detractors, however, about whether that assessment would extend to what they called “black and brown voters.”

Harless has previously argued that those going to the polls ought to meet the same ID requirements as people renting movies, boarding airlines or cashing checks.

At least eight states have strict photo ID requirements, according to a late 2010 study by the National Conference of State Legislatures. The Texas bill is modeled after similar laws in Georgia and Indiana.

Outnumbered 19-12 in the Senate and 101-49 in the House, Democrats knew they were likely to lose the fight this year. Republicans say the U.S. Supreme Court has already blessed the kind of legislation proposed for Texas and predict it will survive any legal challenges.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

  • FedUpTxn

    I’d like to know if people will be arrested on the spot for trying to vote illegally because the next election will require lots of police presense in the DFW area where illegals vote as they please!

  • RussP

    I doubt if voter fraud has been a big problem but this will go a long way to fixing it (absentee ballots are still a problem). I still don’t understand how a law that applies to everyone targets the poor or minorities as so many claim. There is almost nothing important you can do today without some form of ID (drive, cash checks, apply for aid or loans, etc).

  • Ms. M

    Voter fraud IS a BIG DEAL. My parents live in Progreso, TX where the same family has run the town for years. Why? Mostly because of bribes and/or threats to voters. The community consists of more than 75% illegal immigrants so do the math. If these people are here illegally and don’t have a legal ID, how are they voting? The police dept. is in shambles (also run by the same family), the school board consists of the same family and friends, and the school administration’s higher positions are held by members of the same family. The school’s transportation dept. is held by an ex-con and his son is the mayor. This small town could’ve been something but it’s nothing. The streets remain unmarked and run down. There are hundreds of colonias (small communities) of shacks and run down houses. It all comes down to voter fraud. If everyone who votes in this small town had a valid ID this family would’ve been run out of office (and town) a long time ago and Progreso would be true to it’s name — Progress.

    • RussP

      Is it that the 75% illegal immigrants are illegally voting this family in or is it apathy on the part of the 25% legal citizens? We just had elections for mayor, city council and school board in my town and less than 4% of eligible people voted. With that kind of weak turn out, it would be very easy for a group to get their candidates pushed through.

      • Ms. M

        That is correct. Illegal immigrants are voting for this family. As for the legal population, they are threatened, city services are cut off from them, etc. The illegal population is so large that even if the legal residents all voted against the family, they would not even scratch the surface. Then again, if the Voter ID bill is passed, who’s going to keep track of whether a voter’s ID is real or fake? It’s a general problem in our country and that is why so many people who don’t deserve government help, get it and get away with it.

  • Nate

    My personal opinion is they should have required 2 forms of ID, with one being a SS number. This would help in tracking down those who are using bogus SS #’s as well! But definitely a step in the right direction. Being a legal citizen in this country gives you the right to vote for whom you wish, but just being IN this country should not.

  • RussP

    Just did a little research on Progreso. It has less than 5000 people, 99% of whom are hispanic of varied races, only about 3000 of which are old enough to vote (and I’m sure very few actually do). It shouldn’t be too hard to look at the county registration rolls to see if there really is voter fraud. If voter turn out is similar to the rest of the state, only about 150 people vote in the local elections there.

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