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Sunday, November 06, 2016

How Voter Intimidation, in a State with a Strict Voter ID Law (Texas), Happens on the Ground

A Facebook post from a woman in College Station, Texas is going viral regarding her experiences voting under Texas's strict voter ID law.  Earlier this year a federal court expanded the law to allow voters who show a "reasonable impediment" to having the required ID fill out an affidavit and then vote.  Here is how this person described her experience invoking that rule:

As I’m writing this down, what happened doesn’t sound as bad as it felt at the time; but I felt threatened and I still feel very upset and I want to share my story. This morning, I excitedly took the bus to my university polling center to cast my vote. I was armed with my Utah driver’s license, ready to sign a declaration stating my reasons for not having a Texas ID. I was met by a kind older woman, who asked to see my ID, and then asked to see my supporting document (my utility bill). In comes our guy, let’s call him Jim, “Excuse me, you must have an acceptable photo ID.” I explained that I looked up the rules, and that I brought with me two forms of ID. Jim, “Do you have a passport?” I said I did not. Jim, “Well why not? Are you registered to vote in this county?” Yes, sir, I am. Jim, “Well if you were able to register to vote you should have one of the acceptable forms.” He was being extremely rude and physically in my face. Unfortunately, as a minority female, it’s not the first time an older white man has attempted to patronize or intimidate me. The girl behind me leaned forward and whispered, “He did the same thing to me yesterday, and wouldn’t let me vote.” I decided to just be nice about it and say, “Jim, I’m just here to vote. Please don’t make me cry,” because at this point the adrenaline was flowing a bit and I was on the verge of tears. “Well you’ll need to sign an affidavit.” As he walked me over to the table of forms, he felt the need to say, “You know there’s lot of people are coming in here trying to vote illegally… a federal judge made an exception for this election allowing some people to vote…” And I was so upset at this point, I said, “I’m sorry sir, but I don’t really need to hear your opinions this morning. I just need your help voting.” How many people have been intimidated by this guy, and left without voting? I almost left in tears and if I do say so myself, I’m not easily intimidated. He stood over my shoulder and watched me check the boxes “work schedule” and “family responsibilities” because the man doesn’t know me, he doesn’t know my life, and it’s not up to him to decide who gets to vote. His job is to give me the form and watch me sign it. Then I voted. I got my sticker. Then I turned around and said, “What was your name again?” He said, “Jim.” I said, “No, your full name.” He looked surprised and told me his full name. He knows I’m filing a complaint and so does everyone in that room. The woman behind the desk winked at me.

Those who follow politics may be tempted to think that because I live in Texas, which is not a toss-up state, a few voters turned away by this guy won’t make a big difference. I think it makes a huge difference. Whether it’s because I’m a woman, because I’m brown, because I’ve never needed a passport because I don’t have the money to travel, because I haven’t found the time to get a Texas DL (because, you know, I’m only a wife, mother, and graduate student) or just because I’m from Oregon and not Texas, my vote counts. And like it or not, Texas is getting browner. And one day some people might wake up to find themselves in a new political climate of all kinds of diversity. That’s the America I believe in.

For reference: If you do not possess a form of acceptable photo identification and you cannot obtain one due to a reasonable impediment, you may present one of the supporting forms of identification and execute a Reasonable Impediment Declaration. “Your reason may not be questioned.” www.votetexas.gov

Yes, this stuff actually matters on the ground to individual voters.

Posted by Josh Douglas on November 6, 2016 at 11:39 AM in Constitutional thoughts, Law and Politics | Permalink

Comments

Hm. I appreciate anecdotal evidence just as much as anyone. But, for what it is worth, here is mine. I have voted all over Texas, east, west, north, south...never had any issues. Most friendly and engaging poll workers I have ever seen. I'm sorry she had a bad experience, but it hasn't been mine.

Posted by: Marcos Antonio Mendoza | Nov 6, 2016 3:06:58 PM

If we are going to accept every Facebook post as a neutral, accurate recitation of events (particularly when the post is consistent with a narrative we already believe), we are in for a lot of hoaxes. What makes you think this Facebook post in particular should be credited?

Posted by: Curmudgeonly Ex-Clerk | Nov 6, 2016 3:32:33 PM

I missed the part where he intimidated her or tried to stop her from voting. Rudeness does not equal intimidation.

Posted by: YesterdayIKilledAMammoth | Nov 7, 2016 3:17:47 AM

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