The Texas Legislature passed two bills yesterday that on the surface look like good governance measures but are actually efforts to discourage the Democratic base from voting. The state Senate approved a bill requiring voters to present a photo ID before receiving their ballots on Election Day. Support for the measure fell strictly along party lines, with all 19 Republicans voting in favor while the 12 Democratic senators in the chamber opposed the bill. The law would give voters a host of acceptable forms including driver’s licenses, passports, or a concealed handgun license. Studies show that the Democratic-tilting groups of the poor, elderly, and minorities tend to have the lowest percentage of official photo identification.
The other measure is less overt but should have an equally powerful impact in blocking voters' participation. The state House approved an amendment that only allows Texas voters to register new voters in the state. Previously, anyone could collect voter-registration forms, but the new bill will restrict that activity to only people from the state of Texas. Someone registered to vote in a different state would no longer be able to work as a volunteer registrar, damaging Democrats far more than Republicans as the left is more reliant on the resources of national organizations to parachute organizers in from out of state.
If only Texans can register voters, there will be fewer mobilization efforts to boost key Democratic constituencies such as college students or Hispanics. Political groups on college campuses often mount drives to register their fellow students, even though the organizers of those efforts still send absentee ballots back home to a different state. Hispanics are also essential for Democrats' desire to one day win another seat in state office, but first they will need to actually be registered to vote. Hispanics are almost 38 percent of Texas' population, according to the 2010 census, but they constitute only 20 percent of registered voters. National organizations could add their expertise and manpower to local efforts to bring Hispanic voters into the fold, but these new restrictions will make get out the vote drives difficult to conduct on a wide scale.