With the clock ticking and an important deadline looming, House lawmakers passed a fix to the state’s voter ID bill with only a few hours to spare.
Responding to a last-minute push by Gov. Greg Abbott, the Texas House moved yesterday to give preliminary approval to Senate Bill 5 by State Sen. Joan Huffman (R–Houston) – a measure designed to preserve Texas’ Voter ID law by amending the statute to incorporate a court order. Though the bill sailed through the Texas Senate in early March, it had long been obstructed in the Texas House.
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 to 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.
The legislation passed in a party line vote after several Democrat amendments were accepted by the bill’s sponsor, State Rep. Phil King (R–Weatherford). If passed on third reading today (as expected) the legislation will return to the Texas Senate where lawmakers can either vote to concur with the amendments or appoint a conference committee to resolve the differences between the two versions of the bill.
The legislation is considered a “must-pass” bill by most Republicans and it is expected to make it to the governor’s desk. However, should it fail, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has argued that Texas’ voter ID law may be struck down in June. Additionally, Paxton has argued that the bill’s failure could subject the Lone Star State to “pre-clearance” under federal law.