Texas is in the process of implementing new voting identification laws. If you are unaware, next election Texas voters will be required to have one form of photo identification from a list of approved government identification. The ID can be a Texas driver’s license, an “election identification certificate”, a DPS personal ID card, a US Military ID, a US citizenship certificate, a US passport or a Texas concealed handgun license. While many voters already have one of the forms of identification, many of the elderly do not.
Many seniors lack the most common form of identification (a Texas driver’s license) due to “Katie’s Law” passed two years ago. Katie’s law requires anyone 79 or older to appear in person to renew a driver’s license, and to pass prescribed fitness tests related to driver safety. The law also requires that the license of anyone 85 or older expires the second birthday after the date of the license application. No license equals no voting for seniors unless you get one of the other government approved forms of identification.
There are also a few other groups of people who might lack a drivers license for health related or other reasons. I didn’t actually get my first drivers license until I was 21. When I was in foster care I was not allowed to get a driver’s license and as an adult I did not have the opportunity to learn to drive and to be licensed initially. Luckily when I first voted an identification card was not required. For the elderly or people in situations that were similar to mine, you will need to take action now to be prepared to vote and have it count.
If you do not have an ID on Election Day you can still cast a provisional ballot but that will only count if you obtain and identification card and present it within six days following an election. Preparing now will save you a great deal of stress later. Getting a DPS personal ID card will cost $16 or $6 if you are over 60 years of age and you will need some identification documents. There is also the option of getting an “election identification certificate” from DPS. A DPS voting ID is free of charge but will require some documents. Gathering the identification documents may take time and require fee’s if you do not have your original documents, so please plan ahead. http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/DriverLicense/identificationrequirements.htm
There are a few exemptions to the voter ID law but they only apply to a small portion of the population. The exemptions are: 1) have a religious objection to having your photo taken. 2) Have no ID because of a natural disaster, then you can cast a provisional ballot, and travel to the county election office within 6 days to sign an affidavit claiming the exemption. 3) If you have a disability under Social Security or a VA disability of at least 50%, and have no photo ID, you can vote by presenting your voter registration card and written proof of the disability issued by Social Security or by the VA. Once again these exemptions only apply in certain instances, so please plan ahead.
For voters that will be out of the country or are disabled there is a vote by mail option. In order vote by mail, a registered voter must either be: 1) planning to be away from the county on Election Day and during the entire early voting period for that election, OR 2) be in jail but still eligible to vote, OR 3) be age 65 or older on Election Day, OR 4) be disabled.
The Application for a mail-in ballot can be obtained online at http://www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/forms/pol-sub/5-15f.pdf. On the Application, you must disclose your name and address, your date of birth, the reason you are eligible to vote by mail, which election the ballot will cover, and if the election is a primary you must declare your political party.
Once you receive your ballot, you vote and then return the ballot by mail to the elections department. Your ballot must be received by the elections department before 7pm on Election Day. That does not mean mailed before close of business Election Day, it must be in their hands. If it is returned late, your vote is not counted.
I hope after this information will help people prepare for election day. Please feel free to print this article if you need the information to help an elderly family member or neighbor.
Who is Paul Darr?
Paul Darr has lived in California, Oregon, Colorado, and currently lives in San Antonio, Texas. Paul is also an Army Veteran, who has deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. On the political spectrum Paul is a Libertarian that advocates fiscal responsibility and social tolerance. Paul is currently employed as an IT Manager and is a father of a handsome boy and beautiful daughter. In his free time Paul enjoys reading, using and modifying open source software, gaming, and several other geeky pursuits.