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Texas Reaches Deal on Weaker Voter ID Rules for November

The Texas attorney general's office agreed to a deal Wednesday that increases the number of viable identification options voters can present at the polls.

The Texas voter ID bill, SB 14, required voters to present a drivers license, passport, gun permits or citizenship paperwork when at the polls. Wednesday's deal still includes government-issued photo IDs, but will loosen the restrictions of the bill to include birth certificates, utility bills, paycheck stubs and government documents with the voter's name and address. To present the alternative ID, voters must sign an affidavit saying they were unable to obtain the other forms of ID.

The deal requires the state of Texas to allot $2.5 million for voter outreach efforts, such as through purchasing advertising on television or in newspapers.

Image:
In this Feb. 26, 2014 file photo, an election official checks a voter's photo identification at an early voting polling site in Austin, Texas. A federal trial opens Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014. Eric Gay / AP

There is still a chance that a federal court could ask the Texas attorney general and the attorneys suing the state to amend the deal. The deal must be given final approval by a judge.

"The main argument for opposing the bill is that the state intentionally picked and chose a few number of photo IDs that they knew were disproportionately held by white citizens and less often by black and Latino voters," said Houston attorney Chad Dunn, who is one of the lead attorneys in the lawsuit against Texas.

Dunn said the deal provides a way for people who have been unable to get any of the four identification documents that SB 14 initially required to still be able to vote. Under SB 14, voters who lacked the required documents could only cast a provisional ballot, WHICH only counted if they showed election officials proper identification within six days.

Texas ID law drives frustration, mobilization 2:42

The Texas attorney general's office said in a statement that because the November election is in less than 100 days, the current deal serves as an "interim remedy," while the office evaluates a possible appeal of the Fifth Circuit decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"The U.S. Supreme Court said that Voter ID is a legitimate means of preventing voter fraud, and Texans widely support it to defend the integrity of our elections," the statement reads. "This case is not over. In light of the Fifth Circuit's recent decision, we are working hard on saving all the important aspects of our Voter ID law."

While the deal expands the number of IDs voters may present at the polls, Common Cause Texas, a organization that works to strengthen voters' rights, criticized the compromise, saying the $2.5 million allocated for voter outreach is insufficient.

"Studies clearly showed that massive confusion still existed in 2014 after the state spent almost the exact same amount on voter education," said Common Cause Texas Executive Director Anthony Gutierrez. "We're hopeful that the state will allocate additional resources towards making sure that no Texans are left out of this critically important election simply because they are confused about the process."

The Texas Association of Hispanic County Judges and County Commissioners and several Latino voters were plaintiffs in the suit against the voter ID restrictions.

More than 30 states have voter ID restrictions or regulations, the majority of which are in Republican-controlled state houses.

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