"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"It is impossible for me to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?--Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Friday, August 31, 2012

A Victory for fairness....

I wanted to give this a more deliberative review (the opinion of the three judge panel overturning Texas' voter ID law), but I don't have the time and besides, what I had to say comes down to this:  Texas is cheap.  Damned cheap.  And that's what cost them this time.


Although SB 14 prohibits DPS from “collect[ing] a fee for an [EIC],” id. § 521A.001(b), EICs will not be costless. Not only will prospective voters have to expend time and resources traveling to a DPS office, but once there they will have to verify their identity by providing “satisfactory” documentation to DPS officials. Specifically, prospective voters will need to provide (1) one piece of “primary identification,” (2) two pieces of “secondary identification,” or (3) one piece of “secondary identification” plus two pieces of “supporting identification” in orderto receive an EIC. 37 Tex. Admin. Code § 15.182.

 A “primary” identification is an expired Texas driver’s license or personal identification card that has been expired for at least 60 days but not more than two years. Id. § 15.182(2). A “secondary” identification is one of the following:

 • an original or certified copy of a birth certificate;
 • an original or certified copy of a court order indicating an official change of name and/or gender; or
 • U.S. citizenship or naturalization papers without an identifiable photo. Id. § 15.182(3).

 A wide array of documents qualify as “supporting identification,” including school records, Social Security cards, pilot’s licenses, and out-of-state driver’s licenses. Id. § 15.182(4). In sum, SB 14 will require every EIC applicant to present DPS officials with at least one of the following underlying forms of identification:

 • an expired Texas driver’s license or personal ID card;
 • an original or certified copy of a birth certificate;
 • U.S. citizenship or naturalization papers; or
 • a court order indicating a change of name and/or gender.

 Importantly, it costs money to obtain any of these documents. This means that EIC applicants—i.e., would-be voters—who possess none of these underlying forms of identification will have to bear out-of-pocket costs. For Texas-born voters who have changed neither their name nor gender, the cheapest way to obtain the required documentation will be to order a certified copy of their birth certificate from the Texas Bureau of Vital Statistics at a cost of $22. See Advisory Regarding Election Identification Certificates, ECF No. 308, at 2. (A copy of a court order indicating a change of name and/or gender costs $5 for the records search, plus $1 per page for the court order. Actually obtaining a legal change of name and/or gender costs far more—at least $152. See Attorney General’s Response to the State’s Advisory Regarding Election Identification Certificates, ECF No. 330, at 2-3.) More expensive options exist as well, ranging from $30 for an “expedited” birth certificate order all the way up to $354 for a copy of U.S. citizenship or naturalization papers.

You may have heard there aren't that many DPS offices in Texas. The court noted 81 counties in Texas have no DPS office, and in 34 others, the offices are open only 2 days a week or less.  Houston, a city of 4 million, has 7 offices.  That's roughly one office for every 57,000 inhabitants in the city.  Not that all of those people are voters, but you get the idea.  By contrast:

Georgia law requires each county to “provide at least one place in the county at which it shall accept applications for and issue [free] Georgia voter identification cards.” Ga. Code Ann. § 21-2-417.1(a). Similarly, every Indiana county has a BMV office that is required by law to disperse “free” photo IDs.

But why do I say Texas is cheap?  Because the court said so:

By contrast, Georgia residents may present a wide range of documents to obtain a voter ID card, including a student ID, paycheck stub, Medicare or Medicaid statement, or certified school transcript. See Ga. Elec. Code § 183-1-20-.01. The diverse range of documents accepted by Georgia (24 categories in all) means that few voters are likely to incur out-of-pocket costs to obtain a voter ID.

Rick Perry said this opinion was a "victory for fraud."  The only fraud here is Rick Perry.


Blogger The Thought Criminal said...

I Love Melissa Harris-Perry

"What in the world is riskier than being a poor person in America? I live in a neighborhood where people are shot on my street corner. I live in a neighborhood where people have to figure out how to get their kid into school because maybe it will be a good school and maybe it won't. I'm sick of the idea that being wealthy is risky. No, there's a huge safety net, that whenever you fail, we'll catch you, and catch you, and catch you. Being poor is what is risky. We have to create a safety net for poor people and when we won't because they happen to look different from us, it is the pervasive ugliness. We cannot do that."

5:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Houston, a city of 4 million, has 7 offices. That's roughly one office for every 57,000 inhabitants in the city."

Picky point, but I think you mean one office for every 570,000 inhabitants in the city.

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