I’m a bit annoyed.
Texas voting law ‘only’ requires that a registered voter provide one ID. It can be a driver’s license (or the comparable ID), military ID, Naturalization certificate, passport, or concealed weapon license. If you don’t have it but you’re registered you get a provisional ballot. If you have it but you’re not found in the registry you might (depending on various possibilities) get a provisional ballot.
Getting registered is almost as simple.
Defenders of Texas voting law will point to this and scoff at the naysayers who claim there’s an inherent problem – after all, it’s just one ID.
The problem is further back the chain in getting that ID.
The military ID and naturalized citizenship paperwork are not casually available. You have to join the military (not possible for everyone) or you have to be an immigrant. For the other three, well, it turns out that to get either the concealed handgun license or the passport you need your driver’s license, PLUS additional paperwork.
And that driver’s license is where things get interesting.
Let’s start with the fact the agency tells you up front that if the names on the paperwork you provide are different or if a change is found in the various checks that are made, you will need documentation to explain that change. Voter poll stations can accept substantially similar, but the drivers license documentation needs to match or get rejected.
So what do you need for your driver’s license?
You need proof of identity. You need proof of your social security number. you need documentation for citizenship or lawful presence in the US. And you need proof of residency. Got it? Good, let’s get started.
Proof of identity can be done with one primary, two secondary, or one secondary and two supporting items. For primary they can take a Texas driver’s license that expired no more than two years ago OR an unexpired passport OR military ID OR unexpired photo ID from Homeland Security or Citizenship and Immigration (things like American Indian card or Parole card or Temporary Residence card) OR unexpired foreign passport WITH attached visa and form I-94 (arrival record).
Secondary is simple. Birth certificates (by various names such as consular birth record or court order recognizing birth in US states or territories). Remember you need two of these – have you got two birth certificates or proofs of birth? No, probably not. So we need to duck down to the supporting documents.
Let me just do this as a block quote from the state’s agency:
Social security card
Form W-2 or 1099
Driver license or ID card issued by another U.S. state, U.S. territory, the District of Columbia or Canadian province (unexpired or expired less than two years)*
Texas driver license or ID card that has been expired more than two years
Temporary receipt for a Texas driver license or ID card
School records* (e.g., report cards, photo ID cards)
Military records (e.g., Form DD-214)
Unexpired U.S. military dependent identification card
Original or certified copy of marriage license or divorce decree (if the document is not in English, a certified translation must accompany it)
Voter registration card*
Concealed handgun license*
Professional license issued by a Texas state agency
ID card issued by a government agency*
Consular document issued by a state or national government
Texas Inmate ID card or similar form of ID issued by Texas Department of Criminal Justice
Texas Department of Criminal Justice parole or mandatory release certificate
Federal inmate identification card
Federal parole or release certificate
Medicare or Medicaid card
Selective Service card
Tribal membership card from federally-recognized tribe
Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood
Unexpired foreign passport
Unexpired insurance policy valid for the past two years (e.g., auto, home or life insurance)
Current Texas vehicle registration or title
Current Texas boat registration or title
Veteran’s Identification Card from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Hospital-issued birth record*
NUMIDENT record from the Social Security Administration
“NUMI-lite” letter from the Social Security Administration
*The document must be issued by an institution, entity or government from a U.S. state, a U.S. territory, the District of Columbia or a Canadian province.
Remember you need two. Of minor help is the fact that a couple of these documents also prove your social security number. Oh, don’t forget that if your name is different on any of these that you use you need additional paperwork that explains why. Since the acceptable paperwork is court order, marriage, or divorce paperwork you’d better hope that you’re not the victim of a clerk who misspelled your name. My first name is Kirklin. You’d probably not be surprised to learn how many forms I’ve had where the clerk typed Kirlin or Kirkland. Fortunately I had enough documents with my correct name… Anyway, we’re not done yet.
As I already noted the stuff provided above proves your identity. If you used a primary other than US passport you need to prove you’re a citizen so it’s back to the birth certificate. Not a problem if you’ve got it. If you don’t, it’s going to cost you money and time to get one. And once more it had better provide the same name you provided on your identity paperwork – heaven forbid you were adopted – you need both birth cert (or court order accepting such) AND that name change paperwork also known as adoption certificates or orders. Yeah. You did get it from your parents, right?
All that’s left is proof of residency. Easy as there are a lot of choices, unless you’re homeless. And once more remember that the proof you provide must name-match the other stuff you provide. If your name is Gutierrez-Ramirez and the computer only takes Gutierrez, well, you’d probably better use another proof of residence.
By the way, pretty much everything on the list costs money and time to get. As presently designed it creates significant burdens to several hundred potential voters. And that’s by determination of a court using material provided by the state itself.
Let me wrap this up with a summary. For most residents of the state of Texas you need a driver’s license to vote. That is the true burden, and anyone who points to the fact the registrar only needs it (or things dependent on it, or military ID, or naturalization ID) is either ignorant or disingenuous.