When 84-year-old Dorothy Card was born, women had enjoyed the right to vote for less than a decade. She never took it for granted. “It just makes me known that I’m an American and I have a right to vote,” she said, recounting past elections where she’d voted. “Truman, I guess I voted for him,” Card noted.
Though she has voted for more than 60 years without incident, that streak may end in six weeks when Texas voters will consider a host of statewide ballot initiatives.
That’s because of a new voter suppression law passed by the Texas legislature in 2011 to require voters to present a particular photo ID at the polls. If a person doesn’t have a photo ID, as studies have found is true of approximately 10 percent of potential voters, he or she is not allowed to vote under the new law. Texas’ voter ID law took effect this year after the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, negating federal efforts to block new discriminatory voting measures.
Card’s experience is emblematic of the challenge that many Texas residents have faced or will face when trying to exercise their right to vote. Because she hasn’t driven in nearly 15 years, Card doesn’t carry the most common form of photo ID: a driver’s license. Once the voter ID law took effect, she went down to her local Department of Public Safety, the Texas agency that administers voter IDs.
She brought her documents and thought they would issue her a voter ID without hassle. She was wrong.
What should have been a simple trip to the DPS turned into three (and counting) long, arduous trips, each ending without Card being issued a voter ID.
Card didn’t have a license or other photo ID already. She tried to get a copy of her marriage license from the county courthouse, but officials there were unable to locate it. Even a special letter from a county administrator attesting to this was deemed insufficient by the DPS.
Eventually Card’s daughter, a legal assistant, even got involved and tried, unsuccessfully, to satisfy the agency’s requests for more documentation. “They have said if we get another document, that they will issue it,” Card’s daughter told Houston ABC affiliate KTRK. “But I’ve been told this three times, so I’m a little leery.”
Facing disenfranchisement if she doesn’t get a voter ID soon, Card is understandably frustrated. “It’s a good thing I don’t meet the man who is over this because he would hear from me good and proper,” she said.
ThinkProgress has spoken with other Texas voters who have had difficulty obtaining a new voter ID. One such woman is Jessica Cohen, a longtime Texas voter who lost her license and personal documents in a 2011 robbery. Without such identification papers, she would have had to pay a hefty fee to officials in Missouri to obtain her birth certificate, but couldn’t afford to do so after losing her job. Instead, she was resigned to the fact that she would be disenfranchised because of the new voter ID law.
For Card’s part, she is still hopeful she’ll get a voter ID before the election. After her case received local media attention, a DPS official told KTRK that Card “will be issued a Texas personal ID card without running into anymore issues.”
The question remains, though: what will happen to people whose ordeal doesn’t make the news? Will DPS be as forthcoming in resolving problems for folks who can’t threaten negative publicity, whose only stake is their own vote?