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Voter ID Submitted to the DOJ

The right to vote should be an equally accessible right to all American citizens.

The discriminatory Voter ID law passed this session by the Texas Legislature has been submitted to the DOJ for preclearance.  This is the final step before the law can be enforced across the state.

Here is a comparison of the existing voter identification requirements and the new law:

Existing law:

  • Driver’s license
  • Department of Public Safety ID card
  • A form of ID containing the person’s photo that establishes the person’s identity
  • A birth certificate or other document confirming birth that is admissible in a court of law and establishes the person’s identity
  • U.S. citizenship papers
  • A U.S. passport
  • Official mail addressed to the person, by name, from a governmental entity
  • A copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document that shows the person’s name and address
  • Any other form of ID prescribed by the secretary of state

New law:

  • Driver's license
  • Election identification certificate
  • Dept. of Public Safety personal ID card
  • U.S. military ID
  • U.S. citizenship certificate
  • U.S. passport
  • License to carry a concealed handgun issued by the Dept. of Public Safety

All of the above must include a photo of the voter. With the exception of the certificate of citizenship, these forms of ID cannot be expired, or cannot have expired more than 60 days before the election.

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Strict voter identification laws, like the one recently passed, discriminate against minorities, students and low income Texans, who statistics are less likely to have the required identification.  But one community who could be negatively effected by the new legislation, but has not received a lot of attention is the transgendered community.

Via The Bilerico Project:

Lisa Scheps, former executive director of TENT, said the law would have a tremendous effect on transgender people.

"So many times transgender people are cross-identified," Scheps said.

If the photo on a government-issued identification doesn't match someone's presentation, the ID will be questioned and the person may be denied the right to vote, she said. While the transgender community wasn't the main target of this legislation, she said many in the community will be affected.

Depending on where one lives, getting a state driver's license with the correct gender marker and name can be fairly hard. In a state like Texas, whose rules governing transition and the surrounding paperwork are up in the air right now, it can be enough to disenfranchise people. And if someone hasn't gone through changing their paperwork, for whatever reason, showing up looking like one gender but having to show someone you don't know ID that says you're another in front of a crowd of agitated people you don't know, it can be enough to make people ask, "Why bother?"

In one story, a transgendered woman paid upwards of $1500 in legal fees alone to change her documentation. But when a conservative judge denied her claim, she was forced to hire a lawyer.  In the end, she was required to pay for legal representation on top of staggeringly high legal fees in order to cast her ballot.

Requiring more stringent rules that shamelessly disenfranchise an entire community of people is unnecessary and unconstitutional. The right to vote should be an equally accessible right to all American citizens. The Voter ID law then begs the question, What can be gained from a such discriminatory policy?