Texas House reworks, approves Voter ID law as courts watch on

FILE - Voting sign (KXAN File Photo)
FILE - Voting sign (KXAN File Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas House of Representatives approved softening the state’s strict law to get to the polls. It likely will have to negotiate details with the Senate before getting the governor’s signature. The House advanced the measure Tuesday evening.

Before the 2016 election, a court ordered Texas to change its strict voter ID law. Last fall, if you didn’t have one of the forms of state approved ID, you’d have to sign an affidavit promising you are who you say you are.

Now, the House expanded the list of acceptable IDs to include passports and government verified IDs. If the bill isn’t passed, the state could face direct oversight from the federal government to ensure state officials don’t violate the Voting Rights Act.

“SB 5 addresses every situation that the court has found in six years of litigation,” said Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, who authored the bill to avoid other lawsuits and court entanglements.

Senate Bill 5 would allow someone to vote without a photo ID as long as they sign a certified note. Earlier this week, Gov. Greg Abbott declared it an emergency item per the constitution.

But Chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, says lawmakers are focusing on the wrong type of fraud.

“Voter fraud is rare. But when we do see it, it’s in mail-in ballots, not in the form of voter impersonation,” said Rep. Anchia, “If this was really about voter fraud they would deal with that and not the extremely rare and non-existing cases of people showing up saying they’re someone who they’re not.”

In April, a federal judge ruled Texas lawmakers deliberately made it harder for minority voters to get to the polls due to the way Texas drew its district boundaries map. The judge put on hold some of the toughest voting restrictions in the country originally passed in 2011.

On June 7, participants in the lawsuit will meet to discuss the next steps, which could include new state and congressional maps for the 2018 election.

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