, Port Arthur, Texas

November 5, 2013

Remember voter ID on Election Day

Erinn Callahan
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — Voters looking to cast their ballots in today’s constitutional amendments election should bear in mind the recently updated voter identification laws, Rep. Joe Deshotel, D-Beaumont, said in a press release Monday.

Due to new voter ID laws that took effect for this election, a voter registration card is no longer an acceptable form of identification on Election Day. The seven forms of approved ID include a Texas driver’s license, Election Identification Card or personal ID card, a Texas concealed handgun license, a United States military ID card or citizenship certificate that contains the voter’s photograph, or a U.S. passport. Excluding the U.S. citizenship certificate, the form of identification must have expired no more than 60 days before being presented at the polling place.

The new laws have already caused confusion among voters, Deshotel said, and state representatives are not immune. Former Texas Speaker of the House Jim Wright was turned away from a polling location due to a driver’s license that expired in 2010. The 90-year-old former Congressman planned to return Monday with a certified copy of his birth certificate so that he could receive the proper voting ID.

Sen. Wendy Davis and Attorney General Greg Abbott also hit minor snafus, Deshotel said. Davis’ photo ID featured her maiden name, which did not match the information on her voter registration card. Abbott has IDs with two different, but similar, names. However, an amendment introduced by Davis that allowed voters whose IDs were substantially similar to their poll names to sign an affidavit in order to vote. Abbott, who opposed Davis’ amendment, was able to sign the affidavit, Deshotel said.

Deshotel himself ran into a minor hiccup when he presented his Texas House of Representatives ID, which, he said, is an acceptable form of identification everywhere else in the state. When the poll workers did not accept it, Deshotel was able to produce his driver’s license.

“I certainly didn’t make an issue of it, but I thought it was interesting,” Deshotel said in a telephone interview.

If a voter does not have the proper ID at the polling location, they will be able to cast a provisional ballot, Carolyn Guidry, Jefferson County clerk, said. The ballots are then sent to a registrar’s office, and the voter has six days to supply adequate identification, or else provide a reason they are exempt from showing photo ID.

While the provisional ballots won’t be counted the day they are cast, Guidry said, the totals at the end of Election Day are unofficial. As the tally is not official until canvassing is completed, the provisional ballots could theoretically change the tide of the election — although that has not happened in the past, Guidry said.

In last year’s presidential election, 96 provisional ballots were discounted because they were cast in the wrong precinct. This year, residents can cast their ballot at any of 57 voting centers throughout Jefferson County, Guidry said.

With only 2,200 votes cast during early voting, ID has not been an issue in Jefferson County thus far, Guidry said.

“These people are very concerned about voting, so they’re going to come with their IDs,” Guidry said. “We just hope that the turnout picks up.”


Twitter: @ErinnPA