Texas voter ID bill heads to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk


Highlights

Abbott had declared voter ID a late-session emergency item.

Republicans say the bill would help ensure ballot integrity and fairness.

Democrats say the bill still suppresses voting, particularly among minorities, and won’t pass muster in courts.

A reworked bill that would relax the state’s embattled voter ID restrictions passed the Texas House on Sunday and now heads to Gov. Greg Abbott for his signature.

Senate Bill 5 had emerged from conference committee Saturday with many of the House amendments intact — but with a compromise on the criminal penalty for lying on a document that allows registered voters to cast a ballot without a government-issued photo ID.

The passage in the House, by a vote of 92-56, comes a day after its passage in the Senate along party lines.

Abbott had declared voter ID a late-session emergency item when the bill appeared to be sinking.

Republicans say the bill would help ensure ballot integrity and fairness. Democrats say the bill still suppresses voting, particularly among minorities, and predicted it too would be struck down by the courts.

SB 5 is intended to salvage portions of a 2011 voter ID law after federal courts determined that it discriminated against minority and poor Texans, infringing on the voting rights of about 600,000 registered voters who lacked a government-issued photo ID.

The bill would allow registered voters who lack a photo ID to cast a ballot after showing documents that list their name and address, including a voter registration certificate, utility bill, bank statement, government check or work paycheck.

Such voters would have to sign a “declaration of reasonable impediment” stating that they could not acquire a photo ID due to a lack of transportation, lack of a birth certificate, work schedule, disability, illness, family responsibility, or lost or stolen ID.

Under a conference committee compromise, voters who lie on the declaration could be prosecuted for a state jail felony, with a maximum of two years in jail. The Senate version had the offense as a third-degree felony, with up to 10 years in prison, while the House had lowered it to a Class A misdemeanor with up to one year in jail.

The conference also kept the House change that would let voters use identification that is expired for up to four years, up from two years in the original bill, and use documents where the current address does not match what is listed on voting rolls.

However, the committee stripped out a House amendment that required the secretary of state to develop a strategic plan for voter turnout.



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