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How Texas’ Voter ID Law Could Lead To Six Hour Delays On Election Day

By Ian Millhiser on December 2, 2013 at 9:00 am

"How Texas’ Voter ID Law Could Lead To Six Hour Delays On Election Day"

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CREDIT: AP Photo/Alan Diaz

A provision of Texas’ new voter ID law could delay the amount of time required for hundreds of thousands of Texans to cast a ballot, forcing hours of delays at polling places across the state. Indeed, a ThinkProgress analysis of figures provided by the Dallas Morning News suggests that Texas voting precincts could require nearly six additional hours to process voters caught by this law in 2016.

In Dallas County, Texas, nearly 14,000 voters were delayed when attempting to cast a ballot, thanks to Texas’ new voter ID law. And that was in a low-turnout election last month where only six percent of the state’s registered voters turned out. In a presidential election year, nearly ten times as many voters are likely to turn out, likely resulting in ten times as many delays. In total, the voter ID law could force thousands of hours of delay spread across the many voting precincts in Texas.

The origin of this problem is a provision of Texas’ law that requires voters to sign an affidavit testifying that they are who they say they are if the name on their ID does not exactly match the name in the voter registrar. Indeed, this provision casts such a wide net that both state Sen. Wendy Davis, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, and her likely Republican opponent Attorney General Greg Abbott were delayed from voting because of disparities between their ID and their registered name. Davis’ driver’s license reads “Wendy Russell Davis,” while she is registered as “Wendy Davis.” Abbott’s license says his name is “Gregory Wayne Abbott” while he is registered as “Greg Abbott.”

But it’s not just prominent Texas politicians who are caught by this provision. According to the Dallas Morning News, 13,903 people were caught by it in Dallas County alone. As that paper warns, “election officials are concerned that a few minutes per voter to carefully check names and photos against voter registration cards, and then to have voters sign affidavits or fill out provisional paperwork, could snowball into longer waits and more frustration.”

Indeed, the amount of time needed to process these voters could prove completely unworkable in a high-turnout election. Last month, Texas voters only had the opportunity to vote for local offices and proposed constitutional amendments. As a result, turnout was very low — about six percent. In the 2012 presidential contest, however, turnout was nearly ten times higher — almost 59 percent. That means that if nearly 14,000 people were delayed in 2013, an estimated 135,000 could be delayed in the next presidential election. And that’s just in Dallas County.

To put that number in perspective, if it takes just two minutes to process each voter required to sign an affidavit, that’s a total of about 4,500 hours of delays spread across Dallas County’s precincts — or more than 6 months worth of wasted time! Admittedly, that time will be spread across each of Dallas County’s 774 voting precincts, but 4,500 hours of delay divided by 774 precincts equals almost six hours of delay per precinct. Add that to the time already required to process the mass of voters turning out for a presidential election, and the whole state of Texas could be in for an unworkable mess in 2016.

In 2012, Florida voters experienced lines stretching for as long as six hours in large part due to a new law limiting opportunities to vote early. These delays caused such outrage that Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) was forced to sign a law reversing his own efforts to limiting early voting. Thanks to Texas’ voter ID law, however, Texas’ lines in 2016 could make Florida in 2012 look like a model of electoral efficiency.

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