Politics

Hundreds Of Texas Voters Were Disenfranchised By Voter ID

CREDIT: AP Photo/Eric Gay

At least 277 voters in Texas experienced problems casting their ballots last Election Day because of the state’s new strict voter ID requirement, according to a report released Thursday by Battleground Texas. The report also found that one in ten voters who lacked ID were senior citizens or disabled.

Because of the state’s photo ID law, called the strictest in the country, many Texas residents were disenfranchised because they did not have an acceptable form of ID or failed to bring the ID with them to the polls, Battleground Texas’ Voter Protection report said. Many of those voters had expired or out-of-state IDs which were not permitted under the law.

The grassroots group, which aims to make Texas more competitive for Democrats, received more than 1,300 reports from voters experiencing problems with Texas’ voting system. The report only represents a small section of voters in Texas who called an Election Protection hotline or who were helped by the group’s poll workers, so it’s likely that even more people were disenfranchised by the law. Shortly after the election, the New York Times counted more than 500 ballots that were thrown out because of voter ID.

But of the problems flagged for Election Protection, 28 percent of reports concerned the state’s voter rolls while 21 percent related to the state’s photo ID law. While the voter ID issue was the most publicized, many voters also reported that they registered to vote but did not appear on the rolls. Others said they recently moved addresses and the rolls did not reflect that change.

Compounding the other problems, the Texas Election Administration Management system, which is used to verify a voter’s registration when their name does not appear on the rolls, broke down on Election Day. As a result, many registered voters were incorrectly told they were not on the rolls and were required to cast provisional ballots.

Overall in Texas, voters were less likely to be offered a provisional ballot and more likely to have their provisional ballot eventually rejected than other states across the country, the report said. The number of provisional ballots cast in Texas in 2014 doubled from the previous mid-term election in 2010, from 7,947 to 16,408.

The national Election Protection group’s 2014 election report found that Texas and Georgia were among the top five states in terms of call volume to report problems on Election Day. That organization also found that over 13 percent of problems reported by voters in Texas were with the state’s voter ID requirement.

Just two weeks before the start of early voting, a Texas federal judge ruled that the state’s voter ID law was unconstitutional, finding that it had “impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans.” But just over a week later, the U.S. Supreme Court said Texas could use the law. The Fifth Circuit is currently hearing the case and will likely issue a decision this year.

Many Texans also struggled with broken or malfunctioning voting machines, the majority of which were purchased more than ten years ago. The bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration has said old voting machines create an “impending crisis in voting technology” and the Election Assistance Commission, which Republican lawmakers are attempting to shut down, is warning that old voting machines could present significant problems in future elections. On Wednesday night, a House committee passed a bill which would eliminate the EAC, making it even more difficult to coordinate an effort to replace and update obsolete voting machines.