AUSTIN --

Texas voters from all

walks of life – especially the elderly and minorities – will find

it more difficult to cast their ballots in any future elections as

a result of the so-called “Voter ID” bill that was passed on

Thursday, March 24, by Republican state lawmakers, says Rep. Sergio

Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission.

"font-size: 10pt; font-family:">The controversial measure, Senate

Bill 14, would for the first time require a voter to present one of

a restrictive – and potentially expensive – choice of

government-issued photo ID before being allowed to cast their

ballot at a polling place.

"font-size: 10pt; font-family:">Muñoz, who voted against SB 14,

said Republicans offered no proof that Texans were impersonating

other people when they went to the election polls.

"font-size: 10pt; font-family:">“Fox News reported after the

passage of SB 14, that – and I quote: – 'Texas has only convicted

one person of voter impersonation since 2002'” said Muñoz. “Despite

this fact, the Republican leadership pushed the Voter ID bill

because they want to discourage, not encourage, people from being

able to vote. ”

"font-size: 10pt; font-family:">Only Republicans who make up 101

votes in the 150-member House of Representatives, and one Democrat,

voted for SB 14.

"font-size: 10pt; font-family:">The differences between the bill as

earlier passed by the Senate and the version passed by the House

goes to a conference committee made up of an equal number of

senators and representatives who must come up with a compromise on

the changes made in the House. Then, both legislative chambers will

have to vote on the new version before it is sent to Gov. Rick

Perry for his support or veto.

"font-size: 10pt; font-family:">Muñoz said the House Republicans

defeated a Democratic amendment that would have lowered from age 70

to 65, those elderly Texans allowed to vote without a

government-issued photo ID.  The Republicans then went a step

further and removed the entire exemption, thereby forcing all

Texans including all the elderly, to abide by the photo ID

requirement.

"font-size: 10pt; font-family:">"Many Texas senior citizens don't

have a drivers license for many valid reasons, such as they no

longer have to drive to work because medical conditions prevent

them from driving, because they can't afford the high costs of

buying and maintaining a vehicle, or because they never needed a

drivers license," said Muñoz. "Yet, the Republican leadership

insisted on making elderly Texans now have to go through the burden

of getting to a Texas Department of Public Safety Office and

struggling through the bureaucratic nightmare of waiting in long

lines, in order to get their picture taken. Then they will have to

wait even more before they finally get the photo ID through the

mail before the government will allow them to vote."

"font-size: 10pt; font-family:">Under current law – which would be

done away with by SB 14 – a voter who does not have a

government-issued photo ID can still cast their votes by showing

their voter registration card or several other approved documents,

such as an electricity bill or birth certificate – documents that

don’t require a photo ID.

"font-size: 10pt; font-family:">Muñoz noted that the overwhelming

majority of Hispanic and African-American state representatives

opposed SB 14.

"font-size: 10pt; font-family:">"The same problems that will face

elderly Texans because of SB 14 will face minorities, especially

working families and the poor, who historically have been

discouraged from voting in Texas," said Muñoz. "We should be

focusing on restoring vital program funding to the Valley,

protecting public safety, securing our border with Mexico, and

locking up violent criminals, not making it more difficult for

people to want to vote.”

"font-size: 10pt; font-family:">Muñoz said he voted for several

successful amendments by fellow Democrats, including measures that

would allow Texans who had lost their photo ID due to a natural

disaster, such as a hurricane, to vote.

"font-size: 10pt; font-family:">He also supported successful

Democratic amendments that would allow Texans whose photo ID has

been stolen to provide a police report on the theft, thus allowing

them to vote.

"font-size: 10pt; font-family:">Also, Muñoz supported a successful

Democratic amendment that would make a photo ID issued by a

federally-recognized tribal organization – such as the

"SpellE">Yselta Del Sur Pueblo tribe in El Paso – an

acceptable photo ID for the purposes of voting.

"font-size: 10pt; font-family:">The House Research Organization,

the non-partisan legal research arm of the Texas House of

Representatives, reports that SB 14 could “disenfranchise voters by

creating a substantial obstacle to the right to vote.”

"font-size: 10pt; font-family:">The House Research Organization

also reported that opponents of the bill warn:

"font-size: 10pt; font-family:">Eligible voters should not be

needlessly hassled by the state and discouraged or intimidated from

exercising their fundamental right to vote without legitimate

justification, yet there is no proof that the barriers to voting

that this bill would erect are needed at all. This bill would be an

extreme, costly solution in search of a problem not proven to

exist.

"font-size: 10pt; font-family:">There is little or no evidence of

the voter fraud that this bill purports to address. No proof exists

of organized, widespread voter fraud at the polls, and any recent

individual cases of voter impersonation are anecdotal at

best.

"font-size: 10pt; font-family:">A 2009 interim report by the Texas

House Elections Subcommittee on Mail-in Ballot Integrity found no

evidence of noncitizens abusing the electoral system. Furthermore,

in its interim report to the 82nd Legislature, the Texas House

Committee on Elections acknowledged that based on testimony from

the Texas Attorney General’s Office, evidence of voter fraud is

lacking. Such findings show that the current law is working and

that this bill is unnecessary and unjustified.

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