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Some Confused By Standoff at Capitol

By Shelley Kofler, KERA News

Austin, TX – A standoff over voter ID legislation continues in the Texas House, where Democrats are using parliamentary rules that keep many important bills from being considered. KERA's Shelley Kofler talked to lawmakers and Texans about the issue.

Most weekend visitors touring the state capitol studied portraits of previous governors and photographed family members in the rotunda. But most had no idea about the history being made in the House chamber on the second floor. No idea a partisan division over voter identification had halted consideration of most major legislation.

Texan: I don't know. I'm not very political.
Reporter: Do you know what I'm talking about when I mention voter ID legislation?
Texan: Not at all.
Texan: What are they arguing about today?

In the balcony overlooking the House floor, Daidre and Ken Hulick of Houston tried to figure out just what lawmakers were doing.

Reporter: Do you know what they're debating here?
Daidre Hulick: I've heard of it can't say I pay close attention to the details.

The Hulick's watched as Democrats used rules that allowed them to talk up to ten minutes each on hundreds of minor, non-controversial bills that are usually settled in a matter of seconds. Democrats are using the stalling tactic to prevent the voter ID issue from coming to the floor. It will die if not considered by a deadline Tuesday night.

The Republican-backed measure would require Texans to show a photo ID or two other forms of ID when they go to vote. Democrat Rafael Anchia of Dallas says that additional requirement would make it difficult for about three percent of eligible Texans to vote. Democrats believe most of that three percent is their vote.

Anchia: This is a really bad bill. About a half of million Texans would be disenfranchised. For you and me it's no big deal but for people who are disabled who are elderly and don't drive anymore, they don't have drivers' licenses. If that becomes a standard in Texas they would no longer be able to vote and that's a problem.

Republican Todd Smith of Euless chairs the House elections committee and says there's no evidence the voter ID bill would disenfranchise anyone.

Smith: What it says is if you are not going to use a photo id and you are going to rely on a non-photo form of id like a voter registration card you are simply going to have to back it up with one other from of non-photo identification which can be a Medicare card, a social security card or an envelope from the government with your name and address on it.

After considering the arguments Daidre and Ken Hulick came to different conclusions about a photo ID. Diedra, a Republican, opted for her party's position.

Daidre Hulick: I think it's good to have a photo id. The more security in voting would be important.

Husband Ken, also a Republican, thinks the Democrats have a point.

Ken Hulick: I think that probably does exclude people who can't afford vehicles can't afford driving can't afford license that tends to favor an upper class people. I think the disenfranchisement of voters is a very significant issue

While the debate over photo ID's will continue between the Hulick's it also continues in the House, where compromise is unlikely before the Tuesday deadline arrives.