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Texas Voter Photo ID Bill Expected to Become Law

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Monday, March 21, 2011   

AUSTIN, Texas - The State House today is scheduled to take up a bill, passed in January by the Senate, that would require voters to present specific photo identification - such as a driver's license, passport, or concealed handgun license - before being allowed to cast a ballot in Texas.

Supporters say the Voter ID measure addresses ballot-box fraud. Some critics accuse the Republican-dominated legislature of being more interested in suppressing traditionally Democratic voters. Others, like Matt Simpson, policy strategist with the ACLU of Texas, aren't questioning motives.

"I think there are people that are legitimately worried that people who should not be voting are voting. But being concerned about it and having evidence that it's a problem are two separate situations."

Simpson says Texas polls have ample protection against voter fraud, and there's no evidence of widespread problems. He believes new restrictions will do little except depress voting in a state where turnout is already among the lowest in the nation.

Gary Bledsoe, president of the NAACP of Texas, acknowledges that Voter ID will likely become law in Texas, but he hopes the final legislation will include compromises: making allowances for those who have difficulty obtaining proper identification, and ensuring the law can't be used as a tool for voter intimidation. That's not what democracy's all about, he says.

"Discuss your issues with people and try to win in the marketplace of ideas, rather than take measures that will do nothing but undermine good, honest, solid Americans, intimidating them from voting."

Voter ID would cost the state millions to implement, depending on final provisions for public outreach, compensation to residents who will need to purchase state IDs, and court costs from expected lawsuits.

The House and Senate will likely have to reconcile their respective versions of Voter Photo ID legislation before sending it to Governor Rick Perry for his signature.




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