Voter ID laws: the new poll tax

While everything may be bigger in Texas, voter turnout is not.

Texans have a chance to buck this trend thanks to a recent ruling by U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of Corpus Christi who declared Texas’ voter ID law to be unconstitutional.

In 2011, the Texas legislature passed SB 14, requiring voters to show a form of identification before casting their vote. Acceptable forms of ID include a Texas driver’s license or photo ID no more than 60 days expired, a concealed handgun license, a U.S. passport, a military photo ID or a citizenship certificate with a photo.

Critics of the law noted that student IDs are not allowed even if issued by a state institution.

Producing just one ID seems simple enough. Those of us fortunate to receive a college education typically already have at least one of these forms of ID. However, reaching out to the college-educated workforce has never been an issue. SB 14 is especially detrimental to less-educated, working-class minorities whose voice has traditionally been absent in the voting booth.

A study conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau found that in the 2012 presidential election 73 percent of voters were White, 13 percent were Black and 8 percent were Hispanic.

During that same year, a speech given by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder revealed that studies indicate 25 percent of the Black population lacks a government-issued ID while only 8 percent of the White population faced this same problem.

Voting history in Texas is shameful. From Whites-only primaries to literacy tests, minorities have been historically disadvantaged at the polls.

Ramos said in her 147-page opinion that “SB 14 creates an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote, has an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose.”

Ramos also added, “The Court further holds that SB 14 constitutes an unconstitutional poll tax.”

Preventing voter fraud was the primary reason lawmakers gave for creating the voter ID law.

However, according to the Office of Texas Attorney General Gregg Abbott, only 51 people have been convicted of voter fraud in the last decade. Of those 51, only four were prosecuted for voter impersonation — the only type of fraud that ID laws protect against. The other 47 resulted from false mail-in ballots.

Abbott plans to immediately appeal Judge Ramos’ decision. If successful in his appeal, Abbott, who is also the Republican gubernatorial nominee, could reinstate SB 14 before the upcoming elections.

It’s time for students to start caring about politics.

Student loans, healthcare, reproductive access and the post-graduate job market are just some of the many prominent issues students inevitably face or will face.

It is no longer good enough to simply be registered to vote. Students have a responsibility to make it to the polls in this election. Regardless of party affiliation, voting and civic engagement among students lets lawmakers know it’s time to include everyone.