Last month, a divided U.S. Supreme Court allowed Texas to implement a strict photo ID law for all voters for this year’s elections. The predictable result: hundreds of Texas voters had their ballots rejected due to lack of valid identification.
The New York Times reported on Tuesday that more than 500 voters in eight counties cast a provisional ballot, because they lacked the required photo ID, and did not return within six days with such ID to validate their ballots. “In Houston’s Harris County, there were 229 such ballots. In San Antonio’s Bexar County, there were 27. Dallas County had 99,” it reported. And that was just 8 of the 254 counties in the state.
But even those numbers cannot show the full impact of the voter suppression. Many voters who knew they lacked the required ID likely did not even bother to go to the polls. Others, who did not have an ID on them, were not even offered a provisional ballot (as they should have been). One 93-year old veteran was turned away in Houston because his license had expired.
Though the Texas state constitution guarantees all citizens over the age of 18 the right to vote, as long as they are not felons or “mentally incompetent,” the 2011 law required voters to show a valid form of photo identification to cast their votes, ostensible to prevent “voter fraud.” The law was put on hold after the U.S. Department of Justice said it violated the Voting Rights Act, but the Supreme Court gutted that law in 2013.
In a forceful dissent to the high court’s order allowing the law to go into effect for this election, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg noted that “between 2002 and 2011, there were only two in-person voter fraud cases prosecuted to conviction in Texas,” and that the real “threat to public confidence in elections in this case is the prospect of enforcing a purposefully discriminatory law, one that likely imposes an unconstitutional poll tax and risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters.”