VIDEO: Why Voter ID Laws Make Birth Certificates the New Poll Taxes

ThinkProgress filed this report from Austin, Texas.

In May, Texas became one of a growing number of states led by Republican legislatures to pass bills requiring citizens to present photo ID in order to vote.

The legislation, which Gov. Rick Perry (R) declared an “emergency item,” could disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Texans in next year’s presidential election.

ThinkProgress traveled around the state this past week to get Texans’ take on the new law. Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir noted that she’d never encountered voter impersonation fraud in her 25 years conducting elections in Austin and called the legislation a “law in search of a crime.” Luis Figueroa of the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund and Anita Privett of the League of Women Voters both stressed that the new law, which has the strictest photo ID requirements in the country, would disproportionately strip voting rights from the poor, minorities, those in rural areas, and senior citizens.

In addition, Jessica Cohen, a longtime Texas voter, lamented the fact that the new law will likely strip her of her right to vote. Last year, Cohen lost her job, then lost her license and other identification papers soon after during a burglary and while moving residences. Lacking proof of identity, Cohen now needs to pay a fee to officials in Missouri in order to obtain the birth certificate she needs to obtain a new voter ID. Though she had voted for the past two decades, Cohen was distraught that she might soon be disenfranchised because she couldn’t afford the papers necessary to satisfy the new law.

Watch her story:

Lest we forget, the Constitution specifically prohibits a poll tax in order to vote. For decades, barriers – from poll taxes to literacy tests to grandfather clauses – were used to disenfranchise poor voters and minorities, but we eliminated such unconstitutional abridgments on voting rights. Now, new laws in Texas and elsewhere have the potential to disenfranchise millions of voters who can’t afford to get photo IDs.

Fortunately in Texas, the election law changes are currently being reviewed by the Justice Department in order to determine whether they comply with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. More news is expected to come in the next few months.

Later this week, ThinkProgress will discuss another major change in Texas’ election law that makes it much more difficult for non-profit organizations like the League of Women Voters to conduct voter registration drives.