After the Shelby v Holder Decision - States Change Voting Laws -- Texas 4
Seventy counties throughout Texas have no Department of Public Safety offices where the new voter ID cards can be obtained. Many of the counties that do have them are substantial distances from minority neighborhoods, making the task of obtaining them a costly, time consuming as well as inconvenient proposition. Much of the minority population, as well as older people don't own cars, or have access to them, leaving the burden to pay the costs of getting to the offices, as well as submitting their time to secure the new voter id cards entirely up to their own devices. The same applies to the handicapped, presenting the question of how do they get to a DPA office to attain a new ID card if they are wheelchair bound or otherwise immobile, or unable to travel?
Civil rights advocates accused Texas bureaucrats of not enforcing certain laws that were planned to assist with voter turnout, but at the same time records showed that if people were confused or maddened in the first election conducted under the state's new voter ID law, the mass majority hasn't yet complained to the state.
In a report released by the Texas Civil Rights Project, the topic of voting rights pivoted from whether people would be turned away on the day of an election to whether prospective voters are given sufficient chances to merely register to vote.
The group based out of Austin, Texas said a survey of public schools showed that districts failed to give required voter registration forms to students who were eligible for them at least twice a year as required by law. The group's executive director, Jim Harrington said "It makes the point that the system in Texas is lackadaisical at best" and went on to mention that he believed that the complete influence of the law most likely wouldn't be realized until the 2014 general election.
The report was released more than a month after the first election under the new voter ID law was held, which was previously precluded under Section 5 of the VRA. The law which was first passed in 2011 was finally initiated that summer when Texas was given the endorsement of the federal government to implement the law by way of the earlier Supreme Court decision.
Commenting on the report's findings, Alicia Pierce, a spokeswoman for the office of the Secretary of State, commented that the report had not yet been carefully analyzed but said the agency was "always willing to work with interested groups to improve the voter registration process." She also pointed out that her office is not in charge of enforcement and can't influence other agencies to take action, mentioning the Texas Education Agency as an example that has been criticized in the report over its policies of promoting voter registration in schools.
Supporters of the law have rejected criticism of its potential to disenfranchise voters by pointing out that in the latest election held in November, better than typical voter turnout was recorded for an off-year election. State elections officials also reported figures validating the State hadn't been overwhelmed with complaints, as well citing that in total, an aggregate of fourteen complaints submitted to the Texas Secretary of State's Office of which a written reply was required were submitted. The results were based on data obtained by The Associated Press. The total number of complaints boiled down to just one more than the last election, conducted during an off-year, two years previously. Moreover, according to additional data presented by the State only 10 informal complaints were catalogued by elections attorneys during the latest election as opposed to more than double that amount in 2011 (twenty-four).
The office of the Texas Secretary of State's John Steen declared a more than 60 percent jump in turnout from the last election two years ago, but admitted that a high-profile referendum for spending $2 billion from the state's Rainy Day Fund for water was a popular item on the ballot. Steen is stepping down after only a year on the job returning to his law practice and working to manage family investments.
A challenge to the law is scheduled in federal court for trial in September 2014 just two months before the mid-term elections.
There's a common reasoning amid civil-rights groups that nationally, there will be a swift trend of legislation which threatens to subdue the voting rights of the above-mentioned groups in advance of the upcoming 2016 presidential election. Of the eleven states that have thus far passed laws that would necessitate potential voters to display some sort of identification, the Texas law has been judged by many to be the strictest so far.
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