Sunday, June 1, 2014

Texas law makes it hard for some bedrock citizens to get voter IDs

Ruby Barber, 92, of Bellmead finally received her temporary voter identification card recently after the state found a record of her birth in old U.S. census rolls.

Ruby Barber
The law of unintended consequences often refers to governments that make changes but can't anticipate the negative fallout.

Which is my way of introducing you to Ruby Barber, Dorothy Card and Mary Dina Ansler.

Forgive me for sharing their ages, but, in order, they are 92, 84 and 96 -- a combined 272 years of American citizenship.

So why should these women have to return again and again to state offices to obtain a Texas photo ID card so they can vote in person?

They couldn't get a photo ID on their first try, or even their second. The reason? None of them had proper identifying documents.

And you thought 16-year-olds were the ones most often turned away from driver's license offices because of inadequate documentation? Now it's teens and seniors, thanks to the state's strict new voter ID law and accompanying Texas Department of Public Safety rules.

Barber, of Bellmead, was born in a farmhouse by the light of a coal oil lamp. There was no doctor and no birth certificate.

Card, of Lufkin, had an expired driver's license (she stopped driving after a 1999 accident) and no other accepted photo ID.

Ansler, of Richardson, had a Social Security card, an expired driver's license, a certified copy of her birth certificate from Michigan and more documents. But no go.

Ansler's family asked The Watchdog for help. The thought of frail seniors getting in and out of cars with stacks of documents but coming out of state offices empty-handed doesn't seem right. Barber, Card and Ansler helped build our country, and in their final years, if they want to vote in person, darn it ...

Listen to what Ansler had to go through: The Richardson woman moved to Texas two years ago to live with her daughter Robbie LaFlamme and son-in-law Pete. The family says she was told by authorities that she needed an original birth certificate for a photo ID.

Authorities in Michigan, where she was born in 1917, didn't send Ansler a copy of her original birth certificate. They didn't have one. They sent a certified copy. Even with that, DPS told the family they didn't have the correct documents.

The family asked state Rep. Angie Chen Button, R-Garland, for help.
Button's office punted Ansler's problem to the Texas secretary of state's office, the family said. That office drop-kicked the ball over to DPS.

A DPS official called the family and explained that there would be no photo ID.

Ansler had the birth record, a baptism certificate, a marriage license, a Social Security card, a Medicare card, an expired driver's license and a California state picture ID.

Ultimately, Ansler didn't lose her right to vote. Texans can vote by mail without a photo ID if they are 65 or older, or disabled, or out of the county on election day. Ansler voted by mail.

The suggested route for those unable to get a photo ID is to apply for an Election Identification Certificate from DPS.

A representative from the U.S. Justice Department contacted the family. But once the lawyer learned that Ansler was not a disenfranchised voter but still able to vote absentee, he wasn't concerned, the family told me.
The Justice Department has sued Texas, charging that the new voter ID law violates the federal Voting Rights Act. A Justice spokeswoman declined to comment except to say the lawsuit is proceeding.

Ansler's family members say they want her to obtain a photo ID so she can present it at the doctor's office and at the store when she's paying by check, and most of all, they want it because she's a citizen and she deserves one.

The two other women obtained photo ID cards in time to vote, according to newspaper reports.

As for Ansler, after The Watchdog contacted DPS in Austin, officials there decided to grant Ansler her wish.

In a written statement, DPS tells The Watchdog: "If DPS encounters some type of unusual challenge, we work with the customer to resolve the issue. That is what is happening in his case."

I informed the family Thursday night. Ansler visited the driver's license mega-center in Garland on Friday. This time, she received her photo ID.
The Watchdog respects that authorities tightened security and now take greater care in their verification process for photo IDs and driver's licenses. That's what a good watchdog does.

But let's bring common sense to the equation. My suggestions: Create an appeals process and re-examine the rules.

By Dave Lieber, Follow Dave Lieber on Twitter at @Dave Lieber

Source: The Dallas Morning News

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