The Voting Rights Act has been in the news frequently lately, yet some of us are confused as to what it is, exactly, and why the Supreme Court is discussing it.
The Voting Rights Act was signed into law in 1965, and it says that no state is allowed to impose restrictions on voting (such as literacy tests) in order to keep certain groups of citizens from voting. Some states, primarily in the South, had been accused of trying to keep minorities from voting by using those literacy tests as a requirement for voting.
The Supreme Court has ruled that Congress must rework the Voting Rights Act, voting against its passage 5-4. In their ruling, they stated that the enforcement of the law is based on decades old standards and does not take into account improvement in states with histories of voter discrimination.
Although Federal judges have previously said that the proposed voter identification laws and political maps in Texas would discriminate against minorities, until Congress comes up with new standards that are based on modern data, Texas can enforce laws how it sees fit without consulting the Federal government.
Since the judges sent the Act back to Congress, Texas has decided to enforce photo ID restrictions on voters in the state.
Here's why: according to the AP, "until Congress comes up with a new formula to decide which states require preclearance (to change voting regulations), Texas may enforce new laws without it."
In other words, Texas doesn't have to consult the Court before changing laws. Texas is not going to use literacy tests as a voting requirement, obviously, but they can impose other requirements.
What does this mean for you?
If you're a voter in Texas, it means that until Congress reworks the Act and the Supreme Court votes for its passage, Texas plans to require its voters to provide a photo identification card in order to vote.
Texas driver license – unexpired or expired less than 60 days
Texas personal identification card – unexpired or expired less than 60 days
U.S. passport book or card – unexpired or expired less than 60 days
Texas concealed handgun license – unexpired or expired less than 60 days
U.S. Military identification with photo – unexpired or expired less than 60 days
U.S. Citizenship Certificate or Certificate of Naturalization with photo
If a citizen wants to vote but has none of the above, he or she may get what is called an Election Identification Certificate (EIC). This certificate will only be used for voting; Texas says it is not allowed to be used as personal identification in any other way.
The EIC is free of charge. You can get an EIC beginning on Wednesday, June 26, 2013, at your local drivers license office. When you visit, you will be asked to complete an EIC application (DL-14C). Applicants must also bring documentation to the office to verify U.S. citizenship and identity.