Texas elections officials have a big task ahead of them. After a federal court ruled the state’s voter ID law was discriminatory, Texas now has to explain its tweaks to the law ahead of Election Day in November.
Getting Texans on the same page about changes to a law that’s only a few years old anyway is not easy. The state’s voter ID law was one of the strictest in the country. It allowed voters to use some photo IDs at the polls, while prohibiting others, and it made it nearly impossible for some people to vote. State election officials say those outreach efforts will focus on those most affected by the law.
“We are putting a special emphasis on focusing on those voters -- making sure they get the information they need,” says Alicia Pierce, a spokesperson with the Texas Secretary of State’s office. “And so that’s going to include television ads, radio ads, lots of social media, but also reaching out to community groups who interface with Texas citizens everyday.”
Pierce says the changes will have the most impact on people who don’t have the kind of IDs they were required to have. Now the law allows some wiggle room. You can present alternative forms of identification and sign an affidavit saying you had a reasonable impediment to getting a Texas photo ID. Pierce says the state now has to make sure county election officials make that clear to voters, as well.
“Counties are looking to us, our office, to make sure they have the authoritative information that they need. We are updating all the materials for the counties – the training procedures, etc. – to makes sure they are aware of this change,” she says.
For example, in Travis County, County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir says that means getting the word out to people whom probably haven’t voted in Texas before.
“What we are going to be doing is talking to students and brand new voters who maybe just got to Texas,” DeBeauvoir says. “And as many groups of people who will need a little extra help understanding the new law as we can find.
DeBeauvoir says ultimately the new rules are going to be helpful to a lot of voters here. She says there were many people who found it difficult to vote during the last few big elections. DeBeauvoir says loosening the state’s law will make things a little easier at the polls this November.
“[T]hat’s going to be very helpful -- especially for folks who are older or who maybe don’t have a drivers’ license,” she says. “That was our biggest population who ran into difficulty.”
DeBeauvoir says the county will step up its voter outreach efforts once the state’s voter registration period closes on Oct.11.