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US Supreme Court decision opens way for voter IDs

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Courtesy of DPS
This is a sample Election Identification Certificate being issued now by the Texas Department of Public Safety as a voter identification.

The State of Texas wasted no time in responding to the long-awaited ruling released on Tuesday, June 25, by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). The decision enabled new voting requirements passed by the Texas Legislature in 2011 to take effect immediately. Photo identification will now be required when voting in Texas elections.
"Today's ruling by the United States Supreme Court is a clear victory for federalism and the states," noted Texas Gov. Rick Perry in a release. "Texas may now implement the will of the people without being subject to outdated and unnecessary oversight and the overreach of federal power."
By a 5-4 decision in the case Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court struck down a key part of the historic 1965 Voting Rights Act. Chief Justice John Roberts delivered the opinion of the Court, joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. Filing a dissenting opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
President Barack Obama immediately expressed disappointment about the SCOTUS decision. In a prepared statement posted on www.whitehouse.gov, he noted: "For nearly 50 years, the Voting Rights Act - enacted and repeatedly renewed by wide bipartisan majorities in Congress - has helped secure the right to vote for millions of Americans. Today's decision invalidating one of its core provisions and upsets decades of well-established practices that help make sure voting is fair, especially in places where voting discrimination has been historically prevalent."
On Wednesday, June 26, the day after the SCOTUS ruling, personnel with the Texas Department of Public Safety began issuing Election Identification Certificates (EIC) to individuals who do not already have an acceptable form of photo identification to present when voting. Applications for the EIC will be accepted at DPS driver license offices across the state.
If an applicant already has any of the following documents, they are not eligible to receive an EIC:
• Texas driver license - unexpired or expired less than 60 days
• Texas personal identification card - unexpired or expired less than 60 days
• US passport book or card - unexpired or expired less than 60 days
• Texas concealed handgun license - unexpired or expired less than 60 days
• US. Military identification with photo - unexpired or expired less than 60 days
• US Citizenship Certificate or Certificate of Naturalization with photo
Additionally, to qualify for an Election Identification Certificate, applicants must be
• A US citizen;
• A resident of Texas;
• Eligible to vote in Texas (show a valid voter registration card or submit a voter registration application when applying for the EIC); and
• 17 years and 10 months or older.
Regarding the recent voter ID implementation, District 24 State Senator Troy Fraser said, "I am extremely gratified that the US Supreme Court ruled that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is not enforceable because of its reliance on outdated information. With this decision, the State's Voter ID law, which I passed in 2011, can finally take effect."
He continued, "Voting is one of our most fundamental rights. I believe that our photo identification law simply puts into practice the intent of the current law - that the person who shows up at the polls is who he or she claims to be."
Fraser indicated that in spite of overwhelming public support for photo identification requirements, the current US Department of Justice, headed up by Attorney General Eric Holder, blocked the implementation of Voter ID for two years.
"Now, we can move forward with our law to restore voter confidence by giving election workers a tool to eliminate in-person voter fraud," Fraser said, adding, "This legislation is not a radical concept."
Individuals may apply for an Election Identification Certificate immediately by visiting a Texas driver license office and completing an EIC application (DL-14C). Applicants must also submit documents to verify US citizenship and identity. The EIC receipt issued, which will include an individual photo, can be used for voting until the permanent card is delivered by mail.
Free of charge to qualifying applicants, the EIC is valid for six years. There is no expiration date of an EIC for citizens 70 years of age or older.
Additionally, the EIC can only be used for the purpose of voting in an election and may not be used as personal identification.
Residents with a documented disability may apply at their county voter registrar for a permanent exemption from the photo ID requirement. If approved, they will not need a photo ID to vote. Also, individuals voting by mail do not have to submit a photo ID.
For more information on the requirements, exemptions and process for obtaining an EIC, visit http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/DriverLicense/electionID.htm.
For more information on voting in Texas, visit the Secretary of State's website, http://www.sos.state.tx.us/.