“Free” Texas voter photo ID not necessarily free and not easy


Sample photo voter ID

Guess what you need to get a birth certificate to get a Texas voter photo ID in a hurry . . . a photo ID.

OK, there are ways around it. Those make the voter suppression measure even more ludicrous.

From this point on, I’ll assume you don’t have any of the state-approved ID’s. Here’s the state secretary of state’s guidance. 

A voter will be required to show one of the following forms of photo identification at the polling location before the voter will be permitted to cast a vote:

  • Texas driver license issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS)
  • Texas Election Identification Certificate issued by DPS
  • Texas personal identification card issued by DPS
  • Texas concealed handgun license issued by DPS
  • United States military identification card containing the person’s photograph
  • United States citizenship certificate containing the person’s photograph
  • United States passport

With the exception of the U.S. citizenship certificate, the identification must be current or have expired no more than 60 days before being presented at the polling place.

Of course the biggest part of the voter suppression act is requiring everyone to get a  picture ID. However, that’s not nearly as hard as getting the documents you need for the photo ID.

Papers, please!

You need to prove your citizenship.  How can you do that? You need a birth certificate.  Don’t have one? Here’s where the hassle begins.

You may order one online.  All that’s required is that you live in Texas, that’s it’s being delivered to a US address (state, district, commonwealth or military), have a credit card and “you must have a valid state-issued driver’s license or government-issued ID card”.

If you passed all those tests, you don’t need a birth certificate to get a voter ID card. Go spend the money somewhere else.

If not, you need a birth certificate.  You have to prove to the state that you are who you say you are. Interestingly enough, in order to get the birth certificate to get the approved photo ID so you can vote, some of the accepted ID’s are those ruled out in the voter suppression law.

Here’s your choice:

  • State-issued driver’s license
  • State/city/county ID card
  • Student ID
  • Government employment badge or card
  • Prison ID
  • Military ID

Also, to get that birth certificate to be allowed the photo ID that allows you to vote, you may also use these forms of ID, but not at the polls.

“If you do not have a photo ID, you can instead send a copy of the photo ID of an immediate family member, or you can send copies of two documents showing your name, such as a utility bill and your Social Security card. One of the documents must have your signature.”

If you can follow this, we are doing something wrong

If you can make it to the Texas Vital Statistics Office in Austin during regular business hours  Monday through Friday, you can fill out the form, pay your money and leave with a birth certificate.

If not, you can find the appropriate form (in Word or pdf) online and download them.  Don’t have access to an online computer and printer?  Obviously, you don’t deserve to vote.  Well, you can call (888) 963-7111 and ask them to mail you a form. See if that works before you give up.

You fill out the form, purchase photocopies of your ID, add a check or money order for $22  and mail it in.  Then, you wait. We are talking up to two months to get the documents you need to be able to register a month before any election.

Next step: How did you get this far?

Now, you need to go in person to DPS driver license office. Bring your brand-spanking-new birth certificate to prove your citizenship.  However, you’ll need more documentation to prove your residency. There are three ways to do this.

You are home free if you have any one of what they call “Primary Identity Documents” – which includes ID’s that serve for voting and make issuing the card for which you are applying illegal. Birth certificates are not in that group.

Birth certificates are in the “Secondary Identity Documents”.  However, you need two in this category.  Here’s your choices:

  • Original or certified copy of a birth certificate issued by a State Bureau of Vital Statistics or equivalent agency from a U.S. state, U.S. territory, the District of Columbia or a Canadian province

  • For U.S. citizens born abroad—Certificate of Report of Birth (DS-1350 or FS-545) or Consular Report of Birth (FS-240) issued by the U.S. Department of State

  • Original or certified copy of a court order with name and date of birth indicating a name and/or gender change from a U.S. state, U.S. territory, the District of Columbia or a Canadian province

No luck there?  Well, you can always use your birth certificate along with two “Supporting Identity Documents”. There are 32, which include both state and federal prisoner ID cards.   However, this is where Social Security cards, student ID cards, pilot licenses and such come into play. Interestingly enough, unexpired foreign passports also apply.

Who will be covering the minimum $22 fee to get a birth certificate from the state (it’s more at some county clerk offices – $23 in Tarrant County, for example).
It’s not easy to get the paperwork, which comes as no surprise. It takes time and money. The “free” voter ID card could wind up costing at least $25-$30 easily and that’s not a small amount in too many Texas households.

For those who pushed this law through, it’s no skin off their nose.  In fact, they likely are breathing much easier because of it.  Problem solved.

Voter ID not the only disenfranchising going on around here

Let’s get one thing straight right now.  I firmly believe the nationwide hysteria for voter ID laws is nothing more than a calculated move to make certain the “right” kind of people vote.  It is the Teahadists’ phony solution to a problem that does not exist, and ignores many voter suppression efforts undertaken by the right wing (phony polling announcements, phone banks, etc.).

However, the Texas Democratic Party has a big log in its eye when it comes to criticizing the GOTeaParty about voter suppression.  That is the Texas Two-Face Democratic presidential primary.  Yes, I know the preferred name is “Texas Two-Step”, but let’s call a spade a spade.  I know the party “studied” the issue after the debacle of 2008, but it hardly went out of its way to listen.  Surprisingly, nothing has changed.

Right now, although it says it is inclusive, the Texas Democratic Party gives most of its voters only a two-thirds vote in presidential primaries.  That is the vote they cast at the polling place.

Undemocratic Democratic Party rules pretty much do away with the remaining third of that vote.  Rules give that part of the vote to precinct conventions (we don’t call them bloody caucuses, national media, can you get that straight?).   To claim the remainder of your vote, you have to return to the polling place that night in person to participate in activities usually overrun by machine politics.  Thus, the so-called “inclusive” party also partially disenfranchises the working poor, elderly, poor in general and night workers.

The party does that without apology and with some swagger.

It does it in the name of party participation and grassroots activity.  How do you call it activism when you are holding part of a person’s vote hostage?  I think precinct conventions are fine, even fun.  The party can work its local base and reinforce its community ties.  Filling the room with people who are only there so they are not cheated out of their full and complete vote is not, in my view, any way to win friends and influence people (at least that was the case with the many walkouts in 2008 who simply could not stay any longer).

Democrats should attack the right-wing and its attempts to smother dissenting voters on all fronts.

It would be best if they cleaned up their own mess at the same time.