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GOP Applauds Voter ID Bill, Democrats Prepare For Legal Challenge

By Shelley Kofler, KERA News

Dallas, TX – On Thursday the Texas House joined the Senate in adopting a republican-backed voter ID bill.

Bills requiring Texans to show an approved photo when they vote failed during the two previous sessions. But republicans now outnumber democrats two-to-one in the House and they easily pushed this bill through with a party line vote of 101-48.

Most republicans believe the new photo requirement would limit fraudulent ballots. Most democrats say it will keep some of their likely voters - the poor, elderly and minorities-from going to the polls.

Representative Rafael Anchia, a Dallas democrat, believes opponents will have legal grounds to challenge Texas' photo identification law.

Anchia: I think it illegally and unconstitutionally raids the Texas Mobility Fund because that's where the money for the free ID's would come under this bill and that fund is constitutionally prohibited from being reduced. The second problem that it encounters is that it removed all the exceptions for people who are indigent; for senior citizens; for people who may have religious objections. Those were all in the original bill and then later were stripped out. Finally I think it is going to disproportionately disadvantage African-Americans and Hispanics.

Anchia says discriminating against minorities would put the legislation in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act.

Republican Representative Kelly Hancock of North Richland Hills believes the House bill is sound and says numerous surveys show Texans want a voter ID provision.

Hancock: I'm not aware there's a problem. I expect it to be challenged. We obviously saw in the fact there were 87 amendments yesterday, that you know, they're going to challenge this. We saw chubbing last session by them in order to try to delay the work we are supposed to be doing for the State. It is important people know when they go to vote that the integrity is maintained for our voting process. This session we saw an election come down to literally four votes. So I feel good about what took place yesterday.

Republican supporters who believe the legislation is on sound legal footing point to voter identification bills in Georgia and Indiana that have survived court challenges.

Differences between the House and Senate bills must now be reconciled. Governor Rick Perry urged both chambers to act quickly so he can sign the legislation.

-- The legislation, as currently written, would require voters
to present valid state or federal photo identification. A driver's
license, personal ID card, military ID, passport or concealed
handgun permit would be accepted.

-- Voters without an ID could get one for free from the
Department of Public Safety.

-- Voters without ID could cast provisional ballots but would
have to show ID within six days to have their votes counted.

-- Voters who could prove they had been victims of identify
fraud would be exempt from the new rules.