President's Message - May Voter

President's Message

Voter ID law is just a 'hog in a silk waistcoat'

Madhu Sridhar, LWV San Antonio president 2017
Madhu Sridhar

As League delegates from all over Texas were gathering this past weekend for the State League Convention in Kerrville, sharing their success stories of getting out the vote, there came the dampening news of the latest ruling on the Texas Voter ID law.

Texas first passed the voter ID law, Senate Bill 14, in 2011. The law required voters to show one of seven forms of government-issued photo IDs before casting a ballot. The law took effect in 2013. Federal appellate court found the law to have a discriminatory effect on black and Hispanic voters, many of whom  could not meet the ID requirement. This law had the potential of excluding up to 600,000 minority voters.

In 2016, the District Court put into place temporary Voter ID rules for that year’s elections that allowed voters to vote without photo ID if they presented alternative ID and swore to a "reasonable impediment," which could include transportation, disability or illness.

Senate Bill 5, which was passed last year, made almost identical revisions. It added that lying on the reasonable impediment affidavit, or even making an innocent error, could result in criminal penalties.

The threats of criminal penalty were argued as yet another attempt to suppress voter turnout in the garb of controlling voter fraud, which virtually does not exist. It is to disenfranchise racial minorities, who are less likely to have the required identification, and get easily intimidated.

Texas’ Voter ID law, one of the most stringent in the nation, was blocked twice earlier on the grounds of intentionally discriminating against minority voters. Last Friday’s 2 to 1 decision by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, overturned a lower-court ruling that had struck down the law. The 5th Circuit ruled that the state did enough in 2017 when it passed Senate Bill 5 intended to fix federal court-identified problems in Senate Bill 14 in 2011.

Voting has long been considered the touchstone of our democracy. Rather than eliminating barriers to voting and making voting easy and accessible for eligible voters, the voter ID laws are forcing voters jump through unnecessary bureaucratic hoops to perform this simple


voter ID poster

and sacred act of citizenship.

Judge James Graves Jr., who dissented from the majority opinion, wrote "A hog in a silk waistcoat is still a hog," before explaining that the original voter ID law was an "unconstitutional disenfranchisement of duly qualified voters."

"SB 5 is merely its adorned alter ego," he added.

The recent ruling can be appealed. The full 5th Circuit can be asked to reconsider the case or the U.S. Supreme Court can be asked for relief.

Introducing barriers to increase voter turnout will make our resolve even stronger to deliver votes of eligible voters on Election Day. The League has  experience in fighting the fight and leading the way.