Wednesday, October 2, 2013 by Mark Richardson

Local officials working to help voters get proper ID before Election Day

Local election officials plan to be very busy over the next week in an effort to identify as many of Travis County’s estimated 37,000 registered voters who do not have a photo ID. People with the county and the City of Austin are planning a series of events through Oct. 7 to help as many as voters possible obtain a proper ID in time to meet new election requirements and vote on Nov. 5 and in subsequent elections.

 

And while officials like Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir and Tax Assessor-Collector Bruce Elfant are striking a decidedly non-partisan tone in their efforts, they are being driven by the highly partisan and controversial Texas Voter ID Law passed by the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature in 2011. That law, and a similar one in North Carolina, is currently being challenged by the US Department of Justice.

 

Austin and Travis County election officials have put together a program called Keep Calm, Vote On, which includes a website with instructions for voters to make sure they are properly prepared to go the polls. But acting on the knowledge that many of those same people may also not have online access, they are also planning events in the community on Oct. 3, 4, 7 and 8 to reach out to those people who lack proper ID.

 

While the Nov. 5 ballot will contain mostly state constitutional amendments, both Democrats and Republicans see it as a test to gauge the effect the Voter ID Law will have on elections in Texas.

 

DeBeauvoir and Elfant briefed Travis County Commissioners Tuesday on their efforts.

 

“Because of the time frame we’ve been given, we actually have very little time to get voters ready for the November elections,” said DeBeauvoir. “We have set up a series of mobile events at community centers, grocery stores and at UT to help voters without driver’s licenses get an Election ID Certificate.”

 

She said an Election ID Certificate is a special identification card issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety that will allow people without a driver’s license, state ID card or other appropriate ID to vote. She emphasized that they will not be issuing driver’s licenses. The DPS is also issuing Election ID Certificates at its local Driver’s License offices throughout the state from 10am to 2pm each Saturday through Nov. 4.

 

Elfant said people will also be able to register to vote and/or apply for a disability exemption at the community events. He added that the City of Austin was also planning to advertise the program on Capital Metro buses and on taxicabs throughout the city.

 

The Texas Voter ID Law, which was backed by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and other prominent Texas Republicans, states that voters must present a form of photo identification from among a limited list of appropriate types at the polls in order to be allowed to vote. GOP lawmakers said the measure was designed to prevent voter fraud, but Democrats claim it was designed to discourage groups that tend to support Democrats, like students, poor people and minorities.

 

The issue has taken on national political implications, as several states with GOP-controlled legislatures have passed Voter ID and other regulations perceived as restrictions to try to keep traditional Democratic voters from going to the polls.

 

But when proponents of the Texas law seek to prove that voter fraud is a problem, the numbers fall short. According to a study published in September by the Dallas Morning News, of the millions of votes cast in Texas between 2004 and 2012, the Attorney General’s office has investigated only 66 cases of alleged voter fraud. According to the study, only four of those cases were such that a photo ID could have prevented someone from illegally casting a vote.

 

While the Travis County election officials pushing the Voter Registration and ID campaign are mostly elected Democrats, Travis County Republicans have opted, for the most part, to sit on the sidelines, working mostly to register previous Republican voters.

 

“Just last week, several of our precinct chairs in East Austin worked at the Dove Springs Community Center to register new voters along with the Democrats,” said Andy Hogue, communications director for the Travis County Republican Party in an email to In Fact Daily. “And two weeks ago, the Central Texas Republican Assembly was out knocking on doors and identifying previous GOP voters to make sure they’re prepared for our Nov. 5 election. No one to my knowledge lacked either a driver’s license or a state-issued ID card – very few in today’s world do not have one of those two documents.”  

 Pogue added that if, during their regular efforts to get out the vote, they meet “that rare person who does not have the necessary paperwork required to vote,” they would be happy to assist them. According to Pogue, Travis County Republicans are “in full cooperation” with the county’s Voter ID program

 

Travis County Pct. 1 Commissioner Ron Davis said while he generally approved of the effort to help voters gain the proper credentials to go to the polls, he was curious just how effective the “Keep Calm, Vote On” program was going to be.

 

“Many of the folks who don’t have a driver’s license are also not computer literate,” he said. ”We need to find other ways to reach them. I want to know when and how we can measure the effectiveness of this campaign. We need to know how well it worked in bringing people out to vote.” 

 

For more information and a schedule of community events, go to www.keepcalmvoteon.com, or call the Travis County Elections Office at (512) 854-9473 or the Travis County Clerk at (512) 238-8683.

‹ Return to Today's Headlines

  Read latest Whispers ›

Do you like this story?

There are so many important stories we don't get to write. As a nonprofit journalism source, every contributed dollar helps us provide you more coverage. Do your part by joining our subscribers in supporting our reporters' work.

Back to Top