Texas voters will be able to cast ballots without a required photo identification if they sign an affidavit about why they couldn’t get one, under an agreement reached between state officials and voter rights advocates.
Lone Star State officials also agreed to spend $2.5 million on voter education about the change to the 2011 voter photo ID law, once one of the country’s strictest, per the agreement filed Wednesday. A federal judge must still approve the agreement.
The changes to the law come after a federal appeals court ruled that the state’s law has a discriminatory effect on minority voters and must be changed for the election in November. The state’s early voting period begins Oct. 24.
The lower court found that 608,470 voters, or 4.5 percent of all registered voters in Texas, did not have the type of voter ID documents required to vote under the law.
Voters without photo ID will now be required to present some traditional form of identification, such as a paycheck or a utility bill, and then fill out the affidavit. Election officials cannot question whether an individual's reason for not having a photo ID is reasonable or truthful, per the agreement.
On the form, the listed reasons include lack of transportation, family responsibilities and work schedule.
Individual voters testified that they faced burdens to get an ID or to vote, such as poor implementation of the program by Texas, the cost of underlying documents, difficulties with birth certificates from out of state or that have errors, or long distances to get to an office to obtain an ID.
Texas is one of four states where courts have sided with challengers to voter photo ID laws in the past two weeks. Recent rulings also softened Wisconsin’s voter ID law and blocked voter ID laws in North Carolina and North Dakota.