|To:||All County, City, School District, and Other Political Subdivision Election Officials|
|From:||Ann McGeehan, Director of Elections|
|Date:||June 24, 2011|
|RE:||New photo voter identification requirements – Senate Bill 14|
The Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 14, creating a new photo voter identification requirement for voter qualification in all elections in Texas beginning January 1, 2012. This advisory is intended as an overview of the new requirement. Additional information and forms are forthcoming. The new law requires all voters to present one of the following forms of photo identification in order to be eligible to vote:
- Driver’s license, election identification certificate, personal identification card, or concealed handgun license issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety;
- United States Military identification card containing the person’s photograph;
- United States citizenship certificate containing the person’s photograph; or
- United States passport.
With the exception of the U.S. citizenship certificate, the identification must be current or have expired no more than 60 days before being presented for voter qualification at the polling place.
There are several exemptions to the photo voter identification requirement. Voters with a disability may apply with the county voter registrar for an exemption. Pursuant to Senate Bill 14, the exemption application, which our office will prescribe, must contain written documentation from either the U.S. Social Security Administration evidencing the applicant’s disability, or from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs evidencing a disability rating of at least 50 percent. In addition, the applicant must state that he or she has no valid form of photo identification. Those who obtain a disability exemption will be allowed to vote by presenting a voter registration certificate reflecting the exemption.
Other exemptions include voters who have a consistent religious objection to being photographed and voters who do not have any photo identification as a result of certain natural disasters as declared by the President of the United States or the Texas Governor. These voters may cast a provisional ballot at the polls and must sign an affidavit attesting to those facts in the presence of the county voter registrar within six days of the election date.
Finally, the new law creates a “cure period” for voters who cast a provisional ballot without presenting a valid form of photo identification. These voters have up to six days after the election to present to the county voter registrar appropriate photo identification. Once this and all other requirements are met, then the provisional ballot must be accepted.
The photo voter identification requirement of Senate Bill 14 goes into effect January 1, 2012. Beginning September 1, 2011, election officials are required to begin work to implement the new law by enacting the following:
- Voter registration certificates issued by county voter registrars in November 2011 must contain new language prescribed by the Office of the Secretary of State describing the photo identification requirements on the reverse of the certificate.
- Voter registrars of counties that maintain a website must post notice on their websites of the new identification requirements in each language in which voter registration materials are available. The Office of the Secretary of State will prescribe the language. Notice will also be posted on the Secretary of State’s website.
- Each county clerk must post in a prominent location at the clerk’s office a physical copy of the notice of new identification requirements prescribed by the Office of the Secretary of State in each language in which voter registration materials are available.
- The Office of the Secretary of State must develop new training standards on the acceptance and handling of photo voter identification by polling place officials.
- Election clerks must complete a new training program.
- An election official must distribute a written notice describing the new photo identification requirement to each person who votes in the November 8, 2011 election.
The Office of the Secretary of State is also required to conduct a statewide effort to educate voters on the new voter identification requirements.
Lastly, Senate Bill 14 creates a new form of photo identification called an election identification certificate, which the Texas Department of Public Safety issues. Effective January 1, 2012, registered voters or those eligible to register who do not have a required form of photo identification may apply for the election identification certificate. There is no fee for the certificate.
Our office will send you additional information in the near future. We hope this overview is helpful and we look forward to partnering with Texas election officials to ensure voters understand the new requirement. If you have any questions, please contact the Elections Division at 1-800-252-VOTE (8683).