With only seven days left for the Texas Legislature to complete its work, Gov. Greg Abbott is demanding that the Texas House pass legislation to fix the state’s embattled voter ID law.
On Sunday, Abbott sent an urgent message to House Speaker Joe Straus declaring Senate Bill 5, legislation authored by State Sen. Joan Huffman (R–Houston) to bring Texas’ voter ID law into compliance with a court order, as “an emergency matter for immediate consideration.”
In short, SB 5 would implement much of the court-ordered changes to the state’s law which has been on the books (and in court rooms) since passing in 2011. Huffman’s legislation would allow registered voters who fail to produce a photo ID cast a ballot after showing common documents that contain their name and address.
These voters would also be required to sign a “declaration of reasonable impediment” stating that they could not acquire a photo ID due to a lack of transportation, lack of a birth certificate, work schedule, disability, illness, family responsibility or lost or stolen ID. Voters found to have intentionally lied on the declaration could be subject to a third-degree felony, with up to 10 years in jail.
Though SB 5 sailed through the Texas Senate months ago, the measure had since been stalled out in the House Calendars Committee by Democrats and liberal Republicans.
Should the legislation fail to pass, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has argued that Texas’ voter ID law could be struck down in June. Additionally, Paxton has argued that the bill’s failure could move the Lone Star State into “pre-clearance” under federal law.
Such a change would require state officials to seek federal approval for election-related changes such as redistricting, closing primaries, uniform election dates, and more.
After Abbott’s message, the Texas House did move to schedule SB 5 for debate on Tuesday – the last day the House can take an initial vote on Senate bills. Such a delay will empower Democrats to kill the bill if they can find a point of order or chub the calendar.