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January 28, 2011 - Session Watch

Voter ID will diminish Democracy

By Sen. Carlos Uresti

Across the vast reaches of West Texas, there aren't many places that are 'just up the road.' For many people in Senate District 19, a trip to the doctor or the Walmart or the grocery store requires some planning, a lot of drive time and a tank of gas.

That's just one of the reasons why the Voter ID bill so hastily adopted by the Senate in the session's third week is bad for Texas and the ideals of Democracy. Along with rural voters, minorities, students and the elderly will be disenfranchised by this cynical attempt to suppress turnout in state and local elections.

Voter ID would not have gotten to the Senate floor so early in the session — indeed, it wouldn't have been brought up at all — without an emergency declaration by the governor and special treatment by the Senate's rules.

Why was Voter ID worth abandoning one of the Senate's most important bipartisan traditions? Why was it put at the head of the legislative line, in front of public schools, colleges and universities, abused and neglected children, seniors, veterans, the disabled, doctors, hospitals and nursing homes? What problem does its address? What solution does it offer?

Its advocates thoroughly failed to answer those questions during the Senate debate. And the bill's sponsor could not answer fundamental questions about the hardships that many people in District 19 will face in trying to comply with a photo ID requirement.

Consider this. About 47,500 people in the district don't have a DPS office in their county, and another 70,000 have access to only partial or sporadic service, such as the first Tuesday of each month from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Some 36,000 people in the district must travel an average 137-mile round trip to the nearest full-service DPS office. For the 8,500 people who live in Ozona, Sanderson, and Sierra Blanca, the average travel time to the nearest DPS office is more than 3 hours.

If you're retired, disabled, or don't have access to transportation, who's going to help you make that round trip from Fort Hancock or Dell City to El Paso?

For many across the district, obtaining a photo ID will create a hardship so challenging, they'll just give up. They will relinquish one of their most fundamental rights, the right to vote, and the advocates of this bill will have accomplished their real purpose.

And that purpose is clear. The proponents of Voter ID did not offer any compelling evidence that voter impersonation is a problem in Texas. The facts undermine any argument that it will enhance ballot-security.

The advocates of Voter ID will hail its passage as a victory for the electoral process, but that declaration will hide a menacing truth. It's really nothing more than a cynical attempt to win elections through statute, bypassing the polling booth and the will of all the people.

This bill won't save a teacher's job or put food on anyone's table. It won't provide a college loan or help an elderly Texan stay in their nursing home. It won't keep a child from being abused or going to bed hungry at night.

It won't do much of anything, really, except diminish our Democracy.

Visit Senator Uresti's News page and Calendar
to keep up to date with Senate District 19.

©2011 Carlos Uresti Campaign  •  A.M. Hernandez, Treasurer  •  P.O. Box 240431  •  San Antonio, Texas  •  78224