AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM) – Legislation requiring Texans to show a photo ID before voting cleared a major hurdle Tuesday night and appears headed for Senate passage this week.
The bill passed 20-12 along partisan lines in a committee made up of all the senators and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.
The full Senate could take up the measure beginning Wednesday night, with a floor vote likely to come by Thursday. Republicans say the measure is needed to prevent fraud. Democrats say it’s more about keeping voters — their voters — away from the polls.
Dewhurst, the Republican leader of the chamber, applauded the “camaraderie” during a debate that otherwise revealed sharp partisan divisions. He said he expected changes to the legislation that Democrats are hoping to soften. More than two dozen amendments are pending, officials said.
Passage is all but a foregone conclusion in a chamber where Republicans hold a 19-12 majority. Democrats have said as much.
“This is like a dance where we have another song, another round,” said Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio, leader of the Senate Democrats. “There is no doubt this bill will pass.”
Senators had spent hours debating the bill Tuesday with expert and public testimony dragging on into the night. Republicans are making stronger voter ID laws a top priority, with Gov. Rick Perry making it one of a handful of bills given fast-track status. They say the changes will prevent fraud, but Democrats say there is little evidence of it and call the bill a partisan effort to boost GOP margins at the ballot box.
“It’s important we prevent fraud and restore the public’s confidence in the election system,” said Sen. Troy Fraser, the Horseshoe Bay Republican who is sponsoring the bill.
The bill is tougher than a 2009 version that was blocked by Democrats. It requires voters to present a valid former of state or federally issued photo identification. A driver’s license, personal ID card, military ID or passport would be accepted.
Unlike the measure two years ago, the new bill does not allow someone to present two other forms of non-photo ID to prove who they are. The bill would not change the process for mail-in and absentee ballots. Voters who could not produce ID would be allowed to cast a provisional ballot and then have six days to return with a proper ID. Voters 70 and older would be exempt from the bill.
Texas would become the ninth state to require photo identification for voters, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)