New Texas law could make voting more challenging

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by BRAD WATSON

WFAA

Posted on November 8, 2011 at 7:26 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 8 at 7:31 PM

This is the last election before the state's new voter identification law takes affect January 1 — providing the Justice Department approves it under the Voting Rights Act.

Voters Tuesday learned what we're all going to have to know by the March primary, and that is you'll need certain kinds of identification.

But for some, that ID could be hard to get.

The few voters at the polls Tuesday received a state notice of what photo IDs will be acceptable in 2012 when the Republican-backed voter ID law starts.

Dallas County GOP Chairman Wade Emmert defends the law. "The people of Texas don't think it's too much of a burden," he said. "Overwhelmingly, people in Texas want some type of voter ID."

Under the law, a voter must show a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver's license, DPS personal ID card, or passport — in addition to a voter registration card.

As common as they are, DPS couldn't match about 604,000 voters statewide with a driver's license or personal ID.

In North Texas, there are about 65,000 such voters in Dallas County, 27,000 in Tarrant, 7,700 in Collin and nearly 6,700 in Denton County.

The law provides for those voters to get what's called an "Election ID Certificate." Voters who need an ID can get one free at DPS offices, but there are questions how easy that will be.

There are already long waits at DPS driver's license offices, and the state has no plan to provide potential voters with transportation to those facilities.

Democrats don't like that voters must show some of the same documents needed for a driver's license to get a election ID.

"We feel it's a poll tax; it's effectively a poll tax," said Steve Tillery, executive director of the Dallas County Democratic Party. "Those people are going to have to go pay for something that the state will accept for them to prove that they are who they say they are."

Republicans say voters can cast a provisional ballot until any ID questions at the polls are cleared up.

What's unclear is whether voters will adequately learn about they need in time for the March 6 primary.

E-mail bwatson@wfaa.com

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