Texas voters now must have valid photo ID



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Posted on June 26, 2013 at 5:54 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jun 26 at 6:00 PM

AUSTIN -- If you want to vote in Texas, you'll have to show your ID. Starting Wednesday, the Department of Public Safety made available applications for election identification certificates. This comes one day after the Supreme Court struck down one provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, freeing nine states, mostly in the South, to change their election laws without advance federal approval.

If you have already have a drivers license, a passport, military ID,Texas concealed handgun license or immigration paperwork with a photo, you don't need an ID. The election identification cards are for people who don't have any of the above. However, you must be a U.S. citizen, a Texas resident, and prove you are eligible to vote.

The identifications are free and valid for six years.

There could be some challenges to the new law, possibly even lawsuits.

Sherri Greenberg, director of the Center for Politics and Governance, LBJ School of Public Affairs, UT Austin, says some legal scholars don't agree with the decision to immediately implement the controversial voter ID law.

The Texas Legislature passed it in 2011, but it had been held up, waiting approval from the Department of Justice. When the Supreme Court  Tuesday overturned the part of the Voter Rights Act that forced Texas to get a federal okay before changing election laws, Attorney General Greg Abbott announced the voter ID law would take effect immediately. He also said redistricting maps passed by the legislature may also take effect without approval from the government.

Attorney Chris Ward is a partner with Yetter Coleman in Austin. "The basic implication is that the court gave Texas power back over it's own election system," Coleman said.

In 2009 Ward took a case to the Supreme Court involving the now-axed provision of the Voting Rights Act.

"In that case, the Supreme Court warned Congress, 'We have some problems with this law, and you need to fix it,'" Ward said.

Ward said they didn't fix it over the four-year time span, so the Supreme Court struck down the provision, seemingly allowing the state to implement the voter ID law.

"It looks like that at this moment, but, I don't think that we have seen the end as far as resolution," Greenberg said.

Greenberg says she wouldn't be surprised if lawsuits are filed.

The Voter Rights Act still stands. The Supreme Court just declared one section unconstitutional based on old data.

The Voter Rights Act is part of the signature legislation of former President Lyndon Baines Johnson.